The way things were going lately for the Bulls, losing three of their last four and giving up a 19-point lead to the Clippers Tuesday, the Bulls really needed a win Thursday against the Charlotte Hornets.
And the Big Three came through by a comfortable 114-98 margin.
You know, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and Andre Drummond.
“It’s a testament to our team,” said Dosunmu, who scored a season-high 22 points with White’s 20 the only other Bull to reach above Nikola Vučević’s 17. “We have a very deep team. It’s all about being ready, give the defense a different look and trying not to be predictable. DeMar (DeRozan), Vooch and Zach (LaVine) cause a lot of attention. They are game planned for a lot, so there are opportunities for me to try to make plays. At the end of the day it will help our team be a better team.”
Hey, it’s not like the other stuff has been working that great this season.
OK, it’s not like we’re going to see a Big Six now since there was only one game this season before Thursday when one from among DeRozan, LaVine and Vučević was not the lead scorer. That was back in early November when Javonte Green led with 17 points in a win over these same Hornets. Talk about killing their buzz.
But the Bulls owed them one this time after a disappointing loss in Charlotte last week, and the Bulls got it thanks to the OG; yes, the Other Guys.
Dosunmu got it started with a dozen first quarter points, mostly in transition though the Bulls only led 31-29 after the first quarter. Then it was White finding the range from three, making three of five and seven of 13 overall for his 20 points.
And the little used Drummond, which might change after this, with a powerful presence and 15 points and 11 rebounds in just under 15 minutes, and thus calling the stat guys. The Bulls said Drummond became the first NBA player since Darryl Dawkins in 1979 to record minimums of 15 points and 11 rebounds in a game in 15 minutes or under. Drummond now is one of eight players in NBA history with at least two career double-doubles in as many minutes in a game.
And perhaps may even start naming his dunks as the self-proclaimed Dr. Dunkenstein did. Dawkins dunks were so powerful and picturesque that Stevie Wonder named him Chocolate Thunder. No, I am not making that up. That’s right, a blind guy, though one of the great artists ever, could “see” Dawkins rim rattlers.
Get ready for the Rim Wrecker, the Go-Rilla, the Look Out Below, the In-Your-Face Disgrace, the Cover Your Head, the Yo-mama and the Spine Chilla? Nah, those were Darryl’s.
Is it your turn, Andre?
Drummond basically has been out of the playing rotation the last month, a coaching decision, not playing in six of the last 13 games and playing a combined 13 minutes in the last eight games.
But it was Drummond who finally gave the Bulls some separation Thursday with three consecutive scores, angry slam dunks mostly, after the game was tied at 41 midway through the second quarter. His beasting segment enabled the Bulls to gain a 53-49 halftime lead. And then in the third quarter with Derrick Jones Jr. taking a stint next to him at power forward instead of at center, Drummond scored on a tip in and got a three-point play on a layup from a White pass. That segment gave the Bulls their biggest lead at 81-64.
The Bulls maintained the margin at 85-70 after three quarters and then held off a pair of Hornet stings within seven points, first with a Vučević score and pass for a Patrick Williams three. Then with a LaVine driving score and LaVine’s big defensive play on a LaMelo Ball steal that resulted in a breakaway and turnover. And Ball bawling to the officials enough to get ejected with just a few minutes remaining in the game.
The Bulls moved to 24-27 with DeRozan after being added to the East All-Star team scoring 15 points and LaVine 10. DeRozan had seven assists and LaVine had three steals. Vučević added 12 rebounds and six assists while the gang-that-cannot-shoot-straight Hornets fired away as aimlessly as they usually do, seven of 35 on threes. The Bulls were 11 of 28 on threes and shot 52 percent overall.
Still, it was mostly something we haven’t seen before with this Bulls team, and who knows if it’s to be a propensity or an anomaly.
Will this be the stand-ins gaining starring roles? Like one time Broadway understudies Anthony Hopkins, Jerry Orbach and Shirley MacLaine moving into the spotlight? The backup singers stepping up front, like Darlene Love, Cher, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Phil Collins? Or just a star turn and a return to the chorus?
“We’ve got three All Stars who have been No. 1 options, guys who can put the ball in the basket at a very high level,” noted White. “For me, it’s looking at what the game needs. Tonight me and Ayo picked up in the scoring area. I can be a threat shooting the ball, but now I can also be a threat off the dribble, and that’s harder to defend. For me, it’s just to keep being aggressive and taking the opportunities when they come.”
And who knows when they’ll come for Drummond, whose reduced playing time has been a mystery. Though it seems Bulls coach Billy Donovan might have some debate with himself about this the way the 6-11 Drummond played. Donovan never quite says, but his rotations make it clear he wants to pursue a transition style of play with more switching on defense. So he used Jones more in so called small ball, center play. But the Bulls got burned with that against the Clippers Tuesday. So Donovan said with the Hornets’ size that includes impressive Duke rookie seven footer Mark Williams off the bench, he decided to play Drummond.
Drummond delivered, and Donovan said he’ll move forward considering matchups. Though Drummond, to his credit, hasn’t complained. And he not only said he just plans to be ready, but says he hopes to remain with the Bulls with the trade deadline a week away.
“It was a unique night for us,” Drummond admitted. “We’re used to having our main three guys having 20, 30 points. But tonight it was cool to see everyone else get a feel and have fun when we were out there; we played a great game.
“When my number is called be prepared to play and most importantly, I’m happy with the win,” Drummond said. “It’s part of the game, stuff I can’t control (rotations). Stuff I can control is being a good teammate, working on my game, staying in shape and being prepared when my number is called. When you focus on the stuff you can’t control, that’s when you start getting to that dark place. I’m just here to be a good teammate and when my number is called I’m ready to go.
“I’m a basketball player, I want to play,” said Drummond. “I’m never OK with (not playing), but the circumstances I'm in is to work my way back to where I want to get to. It’s the route I have to take to get there, me being a good teammate and showing guys I’m here to do whatever it takes to help this team. So that’s what I’m going to do. There’s been times we’ve played bigger teams and I still didn’t play, so it’s just being prepared and keep preaching being ready to go when my number is called. I like it here.”
Though it wasn’t all good news as it almost became a pyrrhic victory because of the losses suffered along the way.
After his sort of first quarter during which Alex Caruso had a steal, forced another turnover and filled up about every column in the box score with rebounds, assists and a three, Caruso seemed to come down awkwardly flying in from the corner (what else?) to grab an offensive rebound over some more step-slow Hornets.
Caruso played a few more minutes in the second quarter and even made a basket on a backdoor cut before being taken out for the game with a sprained foot. Later, Williams twisted his ankle and Vucevuc collided with DeRozan going for a rebound and limped off holding his thigh.
Though it seemed Caruso’s injury was of the most concern.
“We’ll see how bad it is going forward,” said Donovan.
Vučević bounced back up and stayed in the game.
Williams left since there were only a few minutes remaining and the Bulls had a safe lead while Ball was in free fall. Williams said he is confident it’s not serious.
“I’ll be fine,” Williams insisted. “Dealt with a lot worse. As long as I can walk, I’ll be out there. Looking at the bright side (after being out most of last season), it’s good to have something you can bounce back quick from, ice, stretch, things in your control; this is nothing.”
Though any good win with six players scoring in double figures is something for these Bulls.
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