Coby White provides spark, Bulls beat Knicks to improve to 12-5
White scored 10 of his 14 points in the 4th quarter, including three three-pointers to help secure the win.
Remind Me Later •
So there's Coby White.
The Bulls third year scoring guard who's mostly not been scoring in his return from shoulder surgery—averaging seventh tenths of a point per game in about 11 minutes the last three games, one of 11 shooting overall—scored 10 of his 14 points Sunday in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls come from behind for a 109-103 victory over the New York Knicks.
The Bulls now 12-5 moved into a first place Eastern Conference tie with the Brooklyn Nets with a United Center game against Indiana on Monday. The Bulls also hold a three-game lead over Cleveland and Milwaukee in the Central Division.
So in some ways Sunday it was the same ‘ol same ‘ol, Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball harassing scorers twice their size (well it seems like it). And DeMar DeRozan with 31 points and Zach LaVine with 21, closing the game with 14 straight shared points in the last moments scoring on seven of nine possessions.
"I think we have great sense and understanding to come together in the fourth quarter," said DeRozan, his sixth game of more than 30 points in the last 12. "We have different elements to complement one another in the fourth quarter. It doesn't happen by accident, myself and Zach understanding we can lead the charge, us being aggressive and guys understanding their roles."
LaVine and DeRozan, both in the top five in the NBA in scoring are the highest scoring fourth quarter duo in the league as well.
"When you with a group of guys and everyone understand their role and tries to maximize their role to the best of their abilities scoring together in the fourth quarter, we are pretty damned good at that," said DeRozan. "I've never played with a player like Zach before. The things he's capable of doing offensively are intimidating at times, how easy he can do the things he can do. It's fun. I want to go out there and be neck and neck with him competing and helping the team win. We make it fun with one another."
It hasn't been so much fun for White, the precocious guard who was too in love with basketball this summer. He suffered a serious left shoulder injury that required surgery playing pickup ball back home in June. It became a long, lonely rehabilitation. And not only lost for him was the game he loved, but perhaps his job as the Bulls help wanted ads were widely answered. It became an entirely new team, and not only was White certainly no longer a starter with the additions of Ball and Caruso. But with the emergence of rookie Ayo Dosunmu and various gallant knights of the defensive realm who were day workers as well, the rotation looked like a commuter car at rush hour. Room for one more?
But for all the hustle and energy and turnovers and steals and defensive gems, that bench brigade was missing points.
Something Coby could do. Or did, not counting those first three games back. Bulls coach Billy Donovan counseled patience, which generally is defined these days by who raises their hand second. A media scoop used to be when a reporter revealed a story a day in advance. Now it's the time of the first Tweet.
"Nothing happens overnight," White pointed out. "I feel everyone in society nowadays, my first game back I was supposed to go out and do what I did tonight. It's not reality. I haven't played in six months, on a new team. I just had to trust my work, but also take my time. Nobody rushed me, the front office, the players, the coaching staff. They all just told me to be confident. They said things were going to fall into place. I knew all the work I put in, the uphill battle I was going through. I knew a game was coming."
Just in time Sunday after the Bulls lost an early 12-point lead in a soggy third quarter when they fell behind 74-68 in the last minute. DeRozan shimmied for two quick scores to close the third, but the Bulls still trailed 74-72 entering the fourth quarter before yet another lusty and lovely United Center throng.
"This is the most fun the UC has been since I've been here," noticed White. "It's been dope."
That's positive; and so was White, who pumped his fist enthusiastically opening the fourth quarter with a three to give the Bulls a lead that would stick. Derrick Jones, another of the Bulls many 6-5 centers, added a three from a White pass, and then Ball twice located White for two more threes as resolute as the president's desk.
That spaced out the Bulls lead to 91-84. The Knicks would close within a short basket at 93-91 before White drove and added a free throw. The Bulls then chased the Knicks around the perimeter like a run on Game Stop at the Stock Exchange for a 24-second violation turnover.
Then it was DeZach time, LaVine with a pullup, DeRozan with an elbow jumper after a Jones offensive rebound, DeRozan getting a pair of free throws after getting his own miss, LaVine with free throws—the league free throw leading Bulls another 24 of 27—LaVine with a flash drive after the Knicks collapsed on DeRozan, and then LaVine with four more free throws (finally! ref) that left the Knicks so disappointed they were ready to break into a delicatessen. Because the lox were broken? Heck just send them back home so they can charge their phones. All aboard for Battery Park.
Though this Knicks team that beat the Bulls earlier this season is no joke, if a scorer short after Julius Randle's 34 points. And Caruso starting on him in mad scientist Donovan's defensive brew that actually made the scoring difficult. But no other Knicks starter scored in double figures as the Bulls kept the free shooting Knicks—yes, Thibs' Knicks— below 30 percent on threes. The Bulls even matched the rebounding total at 44 despite starters Randle and Nerlens Noel.
The Knicks were missing big man Mitchell Robinson, though the Bulls remained without Covided Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic finally is out of isolation and was at the game Sunday. He apparently is about to be declared active for play, though Donovan stressed that having done little but watch soccer matches (of course and Bulls games) the last two weeks, it could be a game or two before Nikola is Vucevic.
"He'll be cleared when the doctors and the physicians feel comfortable that he's passed everything," Donovan explained prior to the game. "He can be around our team. He's out of all of that stuff. Now that next step is the cardiovascular testing."
No one, including Donovan, has much idea what any of this means and how much of this works with the secretive virus rules that often require a password and secret fist bump. Heck, it can make you so mad that if you were a pepperoni you might be provoked to ask if you want a pizza me.
Have I gotten away from the game again?
It was a really good one, if not particularly artistic. Thibs doesn't do museums. Donovan made what seemed like nice adjustment with a double team on Randle once he began his dribble. That limited Randle to three assists after he had nine in the Knicks win over the Bulls last month when the Knicks had four starters scoring in double figures to just Randle Sunday.DeMar DeRozan finished with a team-high 31 points on 10-of-20 shooting in the Bulls' win over the Knicks.
"It says a lot (winning this type of game)," said DeRozan. "Competing against a hard nosed, grind it out type team, it was a fight to the end, scrappy. We understood who was going to be the aggressor defensively was going to have the best possible chance of winning and we were conscious of that."
Donovan noted it was a game with a lot of fouls (58 free throws with Caruso fouling out), physical and if it were a roller coaster, more like the Coney Island Cyclone, unsteady and from another era. Which was encouraging for the Bulls with their skilled scorers to have the brass when the other guys bring the brass knuckles.
It was the Bulls with the physical play to start and a 20-8 lead, Caruso defending Randle and making you smile at this point. You know if Wilt and Kareem still were around, Donovan would just shrug and say, "Go get ‘em Alex."
The Knicks came back within 25-20 after one quarter as Randle had 10 points, but three turnovers with mice biting his ankles. The Bulls led 51-45 at halftime, and then it looked like a barbershop in the Bronx, the Yankee Clipper, for a close shave for the Bulls. Until LaVine and DeRozan were helped by a White flag, and the Knicks would surrender.
"I said to him at the end of the game, ‘I told... it was going to come,' and tonight he came through extremely big for us and helped win us this game," DeRozan said about White.
It was yet another indication of the remarkable and comfortable instant camaraderie and chemistry of this group that White was saying that everyone kept telling him to be patient and keep shooting and he'd be fine. White was called for the post game home TV interview and LaVine and Jones gave him a water shower. Back in the locker room when White walked in, the players greeted him with a standing ovation.
They felt for him and missed him, too.
"They were just excited for me," said White. "Our team is filled with genuine players and genuine people just happy for people's success. I just felt like if I got to be me it would take care of everything else. Billy always said since I got hurt and (the team) made all these changes, he just wanted me to get my shoulder healthy and be the player I am. I was going to fit in because of the player I am. I'm just a hooper; I love to hoop and I give my all to the game. So everything will take care of itself. I'm not a selfish guy. I don't necessarily want to be this or that. I just want to help my team win.
"I got the waterfall after the game, everyone was super excited for me cheered, clapped," White acknowledged. "Everything that has transpired over the last six, seven months and for me to have a game like I had tonight, everybody was, ‘I told you so. Just stay patient. Your time is coming.' Everybody has the same goal on the Chicago Bulls, to win."
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