If you’ve followed the NBA over the last week, you know that the 2-6 Brooklyn Nets are in complete shambles.
After a rocky few games to start the season, Kyrie Irving posted the link to a film riddled with anti-semitic tropes. He then threw a tantrum when reporters questioned his endorsement.
Then, orior to their game Tuesday against the Bulls, the Nets fired head coach Steve Nash. Reports followed the team will be hiring suspended Celtics head coach Ime Udoka to replace him.
With all of this chaos in the background, the Bulls simply could not afford to lose to this Nets team or allow them any positive momentum. And though they didn’t look their best through the first three quarters, the Bulls came back and found a way to win 108-99 on the road thanks to some late-game heroics from Zach LaVine.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
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1. Zach LaVine is back
In a game where DeMar DeRozan was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, someone needed to be the closer. That man was LaVine.
Scoring only nine points through the first three quarters, LaVine put together a 20-point fourth quarter and carried the Bulls to a victory.
LaVine finished with 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting, 5-for-11 on threes with five assists and only one turn over.
It had to feel good for him to have this moment on national TV, looking the best he has all season and stepping up when DeRozan didn’t have it going. This was a statement performance for LaVine.
2. Ayo Dosunmu’s clutch defense
In addition to contributing to holding Irving to a four-point on 2-for-12 shooting night, Dosunmu was aggressive getting to the paint and finishing through contact. He finished with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting, going through Nets center Nicholas Claxton on multiple occasions to score at the rim.
But the most impressive, and clutch, aspect of his performance were two late-game steals. Both were off Durant passes.
With a bucket on either of these plays, the Nets had a chance to get themselves back to within six or seven points. Dosunmu’s court awareness and position ended up saving the Bulls.
3. The impossibility of guarding Kevin Durant
The Bulls held Kevin Durant scoreless until 4:52 in the first quarter when he made two free throws. From then he scored 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting, 2-for-3 on threes and 4-for-4 from the line. In the quarter!
I’ve already written about the Bulls defensive breakdowns and why they’re giving up such a high percentage on opponent three-pointers, and this was a similar story. The Bulls clearly put an emphasis on making Durant work for his shots. Doubling him in the post forced the ball out of his hands, but the rotations weren’t good enough to get away with it.
At a certain point, it’s just not worth doubling. Durant is going to get his own regardless. May as well put Alex Caruso or Javonte Green on him straight up and let him cook, but take away the wide-open corner threes.
On the other hand:
The Nets shot 9-for-19 from deep in the first half, but the Bulls held them to 3-for-13 and 41 total points in the second half. A much better executed gameplan down the stretch.
4. Patrick Williams does stuff!
Patrick Williams has now strung together three-straight games in which we have seen positive signs of growth. Williams hit season-highs in points (12), rebounds (seven), while chipping in two blocks and a steal. He finally looks comfortable enough to look for his own shot in the flow of the offense, not just coughing up a shot because he thinks he’s supposed to.
Williams has opportunities in the half court to score, but this transition opportunity also stood out. An easy way for him to create something out of nothing without stepping on toes.
Those first two clips are good examples of Williams inserting his physicality into the game. This next one is a flash of the type of scorer he could be if he reaches his ceiling.
You have to imagine this is the kind of stuff Williams spent his summer with DeRozan in Los Angeles working on. It’s the first play of the season that shows you what Williams can do, not just what he should do. More of this to come, please.
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