Patrick Williams scored a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed five boards at the Chicago Bulls fell to the Brooklyn Nets 105-91 in their final road contest of the season. Zach LaVine sat out the game with knee soreness. The Bulls (30-41) will look to end their season on a high note when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks (45-25) in their season finale on Sunday night.
A little bit of sunlight Saturday in the Bulls 105-91 loss to the Brooklyn Nets peeked through the clouds of the disappointment and dismay of the team's elimination from even the post season play-in tournament. Its name was Patrick Williams.
The Bulls often circumspect rookie was almost playful and puckish with a career-high 24 points, three of four three pointers, a tip dunk and a double pump and a lot of both "where-has-that-been" and "wait-until-you-see-it-next-year."
"I just think I've been playing the same way," Williams insisted of his first real. ‘Oh, that Patrick Williams moment.'
"It's just a matter of looking to be aggressive more. A lot of times I'm aggressive to pass or to make a closeout for somebody else. Today, I was just making the closeout while being aggressive to score first and then to pass. I think I still play the same way, just with energy defensively.
"This is definitely the Patrick that they want to see," Williams acknowledged. "Of course, a little bit more that I did today. This is the player that they want me to be. It takes some getting used to, especially for me, because it's not natural to go out there and be aggressive. But this is who I've gotta be in order to be the player that I want to be in this league. I'm up for the challenge."
Patrick Williams speaks to the media following a career-high scoring performance against Brooklyn.
So there may just be plenty of there there, after all.
Some began to worry that despite being 19 years old and leading the team in games played and third in minutes behind Zach LaVine and Coby White, Williams' play in the strain of the long season was diminishing despite repeated pleas to be more assertive.
‘OK, OK,' Williams seemed to finally say Saturday to those nettlesome critics, perhaps if only to get everyone to stop asking.
Sure, he could score. But that's just so easy. Why not pass and move and cut and defend and help? Sure, all nice. But the Bulls seemed to be saying, ‘Let's see that other thing.'
Williams in a performance that should at least offer substantial optimism as the Bulls close a gloomy season, got the Bulls going to their best start of the season, 12-0 sending the Nets with their Big Three together for the first time in months to a head scratching timeout. Hey, we're the Nets! Not those guys.
Williams with a floater and a steal from Kevin Durant to open the game had eight points in the first quarter and 13 by halftime. He added a few jumpers and later a tip dunk and a powerful slam on a Thad Young pass. Young, seeming still young at heart, had a career high matching eight offensive rebounds with 19 points and 13 rebounds to buttress Young.
Highlights from Patrick Williams' 24-point scoring outing against Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon.
Zach LaVine finally rested with the season's architecture in place. Tomas Satoransky, Daniel Theis and Troy Brown also were out. But Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving were back. Led by Irving's 22 points and 19 off the bench from Jeff Green, the Nets reeled the Bulls in to trail 29-28 after one quarter and went ahead 61-51 at halftime. And then applied the calculus of their talents to dismiss the Bulls in the second half. The Bulls shot 29 percent in the second half and were four of 20 on threes.
Nikola Vucevic continued a beleaguered shooting stretch with four of 18 for 10 points and 11 rebounds. He's 15-of-55 the last three games.
"I wish I could use my hip as an excuse," said Vucevic, who'd missed two games recently because of the inflammation. "I just shot the ball poorly the last couple games. I'm not sure why. It hasn't happened to me a lot that I have these stretches. I was off offensively. I just wasn't efficient."
White made one of 10 shots and is seven of 27 in the two games this week against the Nets. Lauri Markkanen had 14 points with four of seven threes, but mostly has reverted to perimeter shooting orthodoxy.
It was certainly understandable with the Bulls Friday night in Brooklyn learning Saturday's game would be futile for them and perhaps even distasteful given the staggering anticlimax.
Donovan declined to address the impact of the failed crusade, playing a regular season sized rotation of regulars until the last few 20-point deficit minutes. Perhaps that will change in the concluding game Sunday night in the United Center against Milwaukee if all the playoff seedings are decided.
"I can get into that after the season is over with," Donovan said before the game about his evaluation of this season. "When the totality of it is finished and it's done, I'm more than happy to go into that. But I don't know if right now is the appropriate time with a game, (to discuss) our season when we still have two games left to play."
Though Vucevic acknowledged that the team finished well short of its visions and desires.
"We didn't achieve the goal we set out when the trade happened," Vucevic agreed. "There were some positives for us to build upon and hopefully next year I think these few months we did spend together and how many games we did play will give us a base to see what we need to do going into next year to be better from the beginning.
Nikola Vucevic posts up Kevin Durant in the first-half against Brooklyn.
"We really felt like we had a chance to get there and to get in the play-in and play for something further," Vucevic believed. "But there were a lot of things that happened along the way that didn't help us, either. There were definitely things we could have done better. When you make a trade midseason, a lot of things change and sometimes it takes more time, and unfortunately we didn't have that. We lost Zach for an extended time and just never really had the time to gel together and be what we can be. Once Zach came back and I came back from those two games that I missed, we saw a lot of positives of what we can be. It is disappointing we didn't achieve our goal. So we have to be realistic and say we failed at that. The only thing we can do is move forward and hopefully use that as motivation going into next year."
Much of that will be with Williams, who is the unknown if anticipated.
We pretty much know what LaVine and Vucevic can do. White perhaps has some growth, if not also a position change depending on summer additions. Williams remains the unknown, if also the embodiment of that can be brazenness.
"There's a lot of things we've asked him (Williams) to do this year that he's never done his entire life," explained Donovan. "He's never played in pick-and-roll. He's never been an iso player. He's always just kind of functioned in the system. All new things for him. Offensively, things are moving very quickly when he's got the ball in his hands. He's trying to figure out just the right play to make. The game moves fast. I think the nuances of the defense, the way teams rotate, he's got to figure that out. It's just not going to happen overnight for him. He's a good worker and I think he's got a really, really good high basketball IQ. But he's going to have to go through some of these experiences."
Video highlights from the Bulls' final road game of the season as they fell to the Brooklyn Nets 105-91.
Though Donovan also seemed to let slip some frustration with Williams' taciturn nature. It's been apparent Donovan has lectured Williams repeatedly about, you know, shooting the ball. There's that thing about leading someone to water. Making vaccines available. That sort of thing. You also have to want it. There's only so much you can pull out of a person.
"It's so easy as a coach to tell him, ‘Here, do this, this, this and this,'" said Donovan. "But sometimes he's got to speak. What's he actually experiencing? He's a really coachable guy. I think he wants direction and help, but he's also got to articulate what he's going through."
It's difficult to figure out sometimes behind Williams' anodyne mask. It wasn't so much Saturday with Williams' inspiring and intoxicating maneuvers. More to come?
"I've (been) put in different situations and different positions than I've ever been," Williams affirmed. "It's been a learning experience for me, for sure. Teams like to help a lot off me. We have guys like Thad and Vooch who are really, really, really good in the paint when they get mismatches (so I pass the ball). Just realizing when I have the opportunity to catch and shoot. I wanted to come out here today and be aggressive. They, obviously, trust me and have confidence in me. So not letting them down and having confidence in myself."
Perhaps just a trailer for the big show next season?