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Bulls-Celtics takeaways: DeMar DeRozan's injury, Zach LaVine's heroic fourth and Coby White steps up

Will Gottlieb Avatar
January 10, 2023

If all you checked was the box score, you’d learn that the Bulls fell to the Celtics 107-99 in Boston on Monday night.

But given how poorly the Celtics shot (43.7 percent from the field, 26.8 percent from deep), the Bulls had a chance. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown struggled to score the ball, but their ability to generate free throws (13 combined compared to Bulls 14 total) and the Celtics offensive rebounding (9) gave Boston enough breathing room for the win.

Ultimately, behind a strong fourth quarter from LaVine, the Bulls were able to cut their 16-point deficit to two and give themselves a chance. A tough decision to trap Tatum opened up a corner three dagger for Al Horford and that was that.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

DeMar DeRozan (right quad) leaves game

It didn’t look that bad when it happened. Clearly, DeRozan hit the deck in pain.

What originally seemed to be a non-contact injury, upon closer review, DeRozan appeared to get his foot tangled with Al Horford’s causing him to go down.

The Bulls immediately took a time out to evaluate DeRozan, who spent the break arguing with officials for a foul.

DeRozan played another two minutes before leaving the game, heading to the locker room before quickly being ruled out for the remainder with a right quad strain.

After the game, he told reporters he has been dealing with this quad injury for the last eight games. He said “it’s nothing too crazy,” so we’ll see.

DeRozan doesn’t miss games. He’s played the most games in the entire NBA since he was drafted in 2009-10. It goes without saying that this could be a very big deal if it’s a bad injury. But based on his initial reaction and the fact that he played two more minutes suggest we may have avoided a worst-case scenario. All this to say, let’s wait and see what the injury report has to say tomorrow and before Wednesday’s game in Washington.

Zach LaVine quiet … until the fourth

LaVine had 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, 1-of-8 on threes through the first three quarters.

He finished with 27 points on 10-of-24 from the field and 4-of-13 on threes. LaVine went off in the fourth quarter, hitting tough, contested, step-back three after tough, contested, step-back three.

LaVine has clearly gotten the memo about shooting more threes, and it’s reflecting in the team total. LaVine has taken 38 total threes over the last three games, or 12.6 per game.

As we know, the Bulls are last in the NBA at 28.8 three-pointers attempted per game. But over their last three, they have chucked 97 or 32.3 threes per game. Feel free to check my math, but that’s an additional 3.5 threes per game, which gives the Bulls that much more upside.

The emergence of Coby White

Coby White was written off.

He had a chance to sign his rookie extension prior to the start of the year. Of course, that day passed without a deal.

White didn’t seem at all surprised when reporters asked him about it following the deadline.

But all of a sudden, White has become a steady contributor in the Bulls rotation. And he has earned every minute.

The knock on White has been his defense, passing and decision making. To me, those all boil down to IQ and awareness. And that’s exactly where White has shown growth over this most recent stretch.

White has always had the speed to get downhill, but the game was always moving so fast he didn’t have the ability to process the next play in time. Now, things are slowing down and he can recognize when the lane is open for him, when the help is coming from and if so, where he needs to go with the ball.

The stats don’t necessarily show it — White finished with only 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting. But he is showing real signs of growth here. If he keeps that up, he has the chance to earn more minutes and provide the spacing and playmaking the Bulls desperately need to compliment their former All-Stars.

Up next: The Bulls head to DC to face the Wizards on Wednesday

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