They say the first game back home after a long road trip can be a tricky one. And through the first three quarters of the Bulls 115-111 win over the Washington Wizards, this game was utterly forgettable.
But something clicked for the Bulls big three as the game wore on, and each of Nikola Vucevic (25 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks on 10-of-16 shooting and 3-of-5 from three), DeMar DeRozan (27 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists on 11-of-21 shooting) and Zach LaVine (25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals on 8-of-19 shooting and 5-of-9 on threes) finished with 25 or more points for the first time this season. In fact, it was only the second time the trio had all scored 20 or more in the same game.
“Vooch played a great game from start to finish,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “He was really efficient, had everything going. He posted up. He made some midrange and a couple 3s in the second half. But I give DeMar and Zach a lot of credit. They struggled to shoot at the level they’re accustomed to shooting early. And they stayed in the game as competitors.”
It was far from a pretty win, but it’s a massively positive step for the Bulls three All-Stars, whose three-man net rating heading into this game was -6.3.
Fourth quarter threes
Through the first three quarters, the Bulls attempted only 16 total three pointers, making six of them. Simply put, it’s not enough.
Luckily the Wizards were shooting poorly enough that the Bulls could keep it close. Despite trailing after three quarters and for a significant portion of the fourth, the Wizards were only 6-of-22 from deep.
Well, that changed in the fourth.
The Bulls got hot, making four threes-in-a-row. LaVine hit three and Vucevic followed up with one of his own. They made four-of-the-six they attempted in the final frame.
Funny how those silly three-pointers can swing the trajectory of the game.
LaVine was 4-for-13 with just 12 points heading into the fourth. From there, he finished with 8-of-19 with 25 points.
“Is this why they play guys like you in the fourth quarter?,” Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic asked LaVine.
“Don’t do that,” LaVine retorted. “You said it. You said what I said.”
All with a smile on his face.
The little things that win games
Three key defensive plays in the fourth quarter came from DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic that captured the lead and ultimately led to the Bulls stealing this one from the Wizards.
With 4:26 to go in the fourth, the Bulls are up one. DeRozan got beat on a drive coming out of an after timeout play, but made a nice recovery block, dove out of bounds to save the ball and put LaVine in transition to extend the lead to three.
2. With 2:38 remaining the Wizards have the ball. They put Vucevic in a pick-and-roll and Wizards guard Monte Morris turns the corner and gets downhill. Vucevic recovers to swat the layup attempt. The Bulls get a DeRozan turn around jumper to extend the lead to three.
3. With 15 seconds to go, the Bulls are up two with the ball and have a chance to ice the game. LaVine misses a driving layup, but Vucevic muscles his way into position to tip the ball to Caruso, who finds DeRozan before the Wizards can foul. Bulls head to the line and take a four-point lead.
Checking in with an old friend
Got a chance to check in with Taj Gibson, who plays for the Wizards. It’s not his first time back in Chicago, but he relishes getting to play in front of the fans at the United Center every times.
Up next: Bulls host Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on Saturday night
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