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Patrick Williams and the Chicago Bulls handled their business against an injury-plagued Memphis Grizzlies team.
And they did so in convincing fashion.
Seven players were in double-figures. The team generated 32 assists. They won the offensive rebounding, three-pointers made, turnover and shooting efficiency battles.
“We sustained it for the whole game which was good to see,” Billy Donovan said. “I know we didn’t shoot it particularly well to start the game but I thought we were really generating a lot of good looks. They missed a lot of threes as well, so there wasn’t much separation there in that first quarter. But I liked the fact that we kept staying with it and really unselfish and guys move the ball, shared it, and you know, everybody kind of got involved in, in one way or another.”
And in doing so, they move to 21-23, two games below .500.
Patrick Williams, playing with aggression
Just looking at the box score, you might think this was one of Patrick Williams’ more aggressive offensive games.
15 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Four trips to the free throw line.
That’s good production.
But Donovan still wants to see Williams taking better advantage of his opportunities. That’s why he pulled him at the 7:51 mark of the first quarter, after Williams started the game in place of the injured Zach LaVine.
“There’s opportunities that guys have to take advantage of close outs and rotations and I thought there was a couple possessions there where he really had an opportunity to shoot it drive it make a play,” Donovan said. “And you know, he just like we talked about being aggressive it’s in those moments.”
Sounds like the same Williams.
But let’s zoom out. What does “aggressive” mean in this context?
“It’s not so much necessarily like the ball gets thrown to somebody and the guys guarding them and you just need to go drive it,” Donovan explained. “It’s when there’s a shifted floor and bodies are off of you, and the balls coming to you, and you’re in a close out, a read situation to either shoot it or attack. And I thought there was a couple of possessions there that he was little bit passive. Talked to him about and and then I thought he was a little bit better as the game went on.”
“Being aggressive” doesn’t mean dominating the ball, hoisting a bunch of shots or barreling into the lane to try to pick up fouls. It means reading the defense, making quick decisions against close out situations and keeping the advantage alive.
“You see him sometimes where he puts the ball down and he kind of gets a good mid-range shot because he’s trying to get to the rim,” Donovan said. “But maybe what was open was taking the three.”
This is what he was talking about:
“I think what happens is, a lot of times for players, those things happen very quickly. And you can get caught where, you know, ‘I’m getting ready to shoot it’ and then I’m like, ‘well, I don’t have the shot’ and now you’ve lost the advantage.”
And that hesitation is enough to kill a possession.
“Definitely, I felt it,” Williams said. “So he didn’t even have to tell me. I already knew what it was. And a lot of my teammates were already on me about just shooting the ball.”
There is plenty of criticism to go around when it comes to Williams’ progression and while some of it is warranted, the idea that he has plenty of opportunity whether or not LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are on the court does miss the point to a certain extent.
Making decisions with the ball in your hands, with the ability to survey a set defense is a different skill set then making quick reads after a spray out pass finds you. In other words, it may be that Williams feels more comfortable setting up offense because he can see the whole floor, as opposed to playing off a star where he has to make decisions in split seconds given how the defense is guarding him.
Whether he is, at this point, good enough to command the on-ball reps instead of DeRozan is a separate story. But it makes sense that Williams is still facing a learning curve.
It’s four years in, though, shouldn’t he be better at this point? Probably, but he’s making progress.
“I’m not concerned about it because I see him knowing that he needs to get better at it,” Donovan said. “And he’ll get better at it. He will I believe he’s better today than he was last year at it and I think he’s better now than he was early in the year.”
To his credit, Williams did improve over the course of the game. And he continues to make incremental improvements with every passing day.
“It’s all with reps,” Williams continued. “I think just being involved more in those actions, having those dialogues, whether it’s (Billy) taking me out, guys getting on me, I think development and learning is all about.”
Zach LaVine update
Zach LaVine is expected to miss “a little bit” of time with his ankle injury. The expectation is 1-2 weeks.
“I don’t know what’s it’s going to end up being,” Donovan said pre-game. “It’s going to be how he responds. He certainly has swelling in his ankle. That’s pretty clear. Like I said, he’s dealt with this before. I don’t want to put a timeline on him.”
Donovan said it was unclear whether LaVine will travel with the team on the upcoming road trip out West, though NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson reports that the former All-Star guard is expected to join the team.
If the 1-2 week timeline comes out on the short end, a return by the January 28 matchup in Portland is potentially in play.
- Ayo Dosunmu was critical for the Bulls. He was a team-high +27 in 27 minutes and led the team in scoring with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
- Dalen Terry was back in the rotation with LaVine out. He came into the game, airballed a three, and then hit a step-back buzzer beater three a few possessions later. Love the confidence. Terry finished with seven points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
- Alex Caruso finished with two steals and a block for the fourth-straight game. He is one of three players in the league this season to reach that kind of streak.
- Andre Drummond put up a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in just 19 minutes off the bench. Nikola Vucevic double-doubled as well with 11 points, 11 rebounds.
- DeMar DeRozan had 18 points on another underwhelming shooting efficiency night (7-of-20). He also led the team with eight assists.
Up next: Bulls head out on a three-game road trip, starting Monday in Phoenix.
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