Stacey King and Adam Amin were providing more entertainment than the Chicago Bulls, but that isn’t a bad thing when you’re playing as bad a team as the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls led the Hornets by 15 through the majority of the game, as they should have. It was the kind of win the Bulls have needed all year against poor teams, but always made them more difficult than they needed to be. Especially with LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre, Dennis Smith, Cody Martin all out and PJ Washington leaving the game with a foot sprain after only 12 minutes.
But with 20 or more from each of the Bulls big three, they were able to dominate wire to wire and recover from two tough losses to the LA teams. Zach LaVine scored 23 (7-of-18 field goals, 3-of-6 threes, 6-of-7 free throws), Nikola Vucevic scored 21 (9-of-14 shooting) and eight rebounds, and DeMar DeRozan had 23 (8-of-15 shooting, 6-of-7 free throws).
Coby White’s passing game leveling up
Coby White’s shot has started to fall. He looks more aware and well positioned on the defensive end. His ball handling has come a long way.
The next thing that needs attention is his elevated passing skill set.
Including Friday night, White’s assist numbers in his last five games are absurd: nine, nine, five, six, nine.
White has found success in three main ways: hit ahead passes in transition, extra passes in half court, and pick-and-roll passes, primarily to Vucevic.
The hit ahead passes are simple. With Lonzo Ball out, the Bulls need to replicate their transition
Playing off the threat of his jump shot, White knows he is going to receive hard contests. If the opponent is recovering from a double team, he preempts the closeouts. In each of these two clips, he leverages the attention DeRozan and Vucevic get to pass the advantage on to Patrick Williams, who hits a three from each corner.
The Bulls tried White out at point guard during his first two seasons, but he moved to more of an off-guard role this year and last. It fits him much better. We know White can score, but the way he is learning to operate as a high level passer, especially against second units, gives him third guard upside. Combining those two talents allows him to play on or off ball, alongside either of the Bulls primary scorers, and still create offense for the rest of the team.
Here, he shows off his chemistry in the pick-and-roll with Vucevic. His timing, the way he manipulates his defenders by drawing two to the ball and getting his defender on his hip, gives him a matchup advantage.
To make this all coalesce, White needed to improve his spatial recognition and general basketball IQ. He has done so and it has turned him from a one-dimensional microwave scorer that could only earn playing time if he was hot, to the most reliable fixture of production on the bench.
Patrick Williams finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including three three-pointers. Great scoring night for him, but the only other stat he accumulated was one steal. Rebounding is a team effort, but it would be nice to see him get more than zero or one.
Dalen Terry came into the game for garbage time and immediately got two steals. Things happen when he is on the floor.
Marko Simonovic played! He picked up a foul on his first possession, and didn’t do much else, but he was out there. Carlik Jones and Terry Taylor got a few minutes of playing time as well.
Play In Updates:
With both the Hawks and Raptors losing, the Bulls are back within a game of both the 8th and 9th seed in the East.
The Pacers and Wizards are all but out, three-and-a-half and three games out of ten, respectively.
Bulls return home for another Sunday matinee against the Grizzlies. They play the Hawks on Tuesday, in a game that will have massive seeding implications for the Play In Tournament.
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