After inbounding the ball to Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu sprinted toward the paint to corral DeRozan’s missed shot attempt and put back the game-winning layup to steal a 110-108 road victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
The Bulls have now responded to The Athletic’s “on-court disconnect” report with back-to-back road wins over the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks, both of whom currently hold play-in spots in the Eastern Conference.
This victory wasn’t pretty: The Bulls shot 29.2 percent from the 3-point line but got to the free-throw line 22 times compared to 16 for Atlanta. The team held up, for the most part, defensively. After a scorching hot start by Trae Young — 29 first-half points on 50 percent shooting — the Bulls bottled up the superstar guard. Young was held to five points in the second half on 2-of-10 shooting.
The Bulls didn’t falter after blowing an 18-point lead, either. After Hawks forward A.J. Griffin connected on a 3-point attempt to put Atlanta up 88-87, the Hawks extended their lead to as many as eight points. The Bulls attacked the offensive glass — a rarity for a team ranked fifth-worst in offensive rebounds — and scored 10 second-chance points.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 28 points; Zach Lavine chipped in 22; Vucevic scored 20. It was the third-straight game that the Bulls’ trio each scored at least 20 points.
After avenging their buzzer-beating loss to Atlanta 12 days ago, the Bulls travel to New York in another matchup with the New York Knicks.
Here are my three takeaways from the win:
1. Increased activity level
The Bulls played with a requisite effort against the Hawks. The defense had 16 deflections, six loose balls recovered and 31 contested shots, per NBA.com. The Bulls hustled back on defense and had an attentiveness that they’ve lacked over the past two weeks. Now they did have breakdowns and miscommunications — they allowed Trae Young far too many clean looks from 3, including one possession where the guard had enough time to shimmy after a botched switch — but they didn’t let mistakes stack on top of each other.
The Bulls also limited Atlanta to nine offensive rebounds, two fewer than its season average. Andre Drummond grabbed 11 rebounds in 14 minutes, and Patrick Williams snatched eight rebounds.
2. Shot selection
Atlanta outshot Chicago from the 3-point line — 37 to 24 — and on most nights, that would spell doom for the Bulls. But against Atlanta, Chicago moved the ball to create smart shots . Vucevic was the only player to sink two 3-point attempts.
The Bulls shot 33 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Bulls shot 13–of-25 from the field and scored 29 points, two fewer than an Atlanta team that shot 50 percent from the 3-point line in the fourth.
The Bulls went to the midrange for its source of offense down the stretch, which makes sense when you have one of the most high-volume midrange shooters (9.1 attempts per game) in DeRozan. LaVine, on the other hand, is known for his 3-point scoring explosions that he goes on, but even he indulged in the midrange jumper in the fourth quarter.
All six of LaVine’s fourth-quarter attempts were midrange jump shots; he connected on three of them, including one jump shot to tie the game and another to put the Bulls ahead by two.
3. Coby White’s playmaking
It wasn’t a great shooting night for Coby White — 2-of-8 from the field and 1-of-5 from the 3-point line — but White still had a positive impact, particularly in the first half.
White wasn’t Magic Johnson, whipping pin-point accurate passes all over the court, but he made the simple plays that contributed to winning basketball.
Take the play below, for example. After a forced turnover, White immediately hits Dosunmu in stride for a fastbreak layup.
White has also worked on his floor game out of the pick-and-roll. In the clip below, White receives the screen and sucks in the weakside defender – John Collins – before whipping a left-handed pass to an open Dosnumu.
The North Carolina guard still totaled too many turnovers (3), but his improvement as a passer is noticeable.