A second consecutive win for the first time this season, but hardly just that.
Make it a second straight game with 32 assists, a second straight game scoring at least 120 points, 30 three pointers made over those two games, a half dozen more than the opponents, opponents both with winning records.
Who are these guys?
It’s really the Bulls with a convincing 124-118 victory Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans led by Coby White with 31 points, nine rebounds, six assists and eight more three pointers, DeMar DeRozan with 24 points in his return from an ankle injury and Ayo Dosunmu and Torrey Craig off the bench with 15 points each.
With Zach LaVine out with a foot injury and Alex Caruso missing the second half with an aggravation of his toe troubles, the new look Bulls at 7-14 were the daring shooters making 17 three pointers to eight for the Pelicans. The Bulls sprayed the ball around, inside for effect and outside for production with 32 assists, 55 percent overall shooting, a narrow edge on the boards against Pelicans stars like Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, and is it too late for that In-Season Tournament?
“We are playing with better pace and tempo,” explained Bulls coach Billy Donovan. “For us, the faster we can get down the floor—and this is a good defensive team, long and athletic. The speed and pace, it’s not only that it’s the quick decision. I thought we were pretty decisive the whole night. The spirit is there, the fight is there and offensively what is encouraging to me the last two games is we’ve scored (at least) 120 points. A lot of that has to do with the tempo, pace we are getting up and down the floor. I’ve been talking about that awhile and the biggest thing is can we sustain that; it’s the challenge.”
It’s a heck of a start and perhaps a new day for these Bulls who have alternated between a tale of woe and woeful much of this season with a desultory start to the season, escalating losses, trade rumors and lately injuries to prime players. Break up the Bulls came the demand. And now with consecutive wins, break up the Bulls?
With seemingly a bit of personal urgency, a canter turned gallop and a sharing spirit of the coming holiday season, the Bulls have looked perhaps not otherworldly lately, but certainly otherwise in the spirit and decisiveness of their play.
“We moved the ball, everyone was playing together,” said White, who has been the scoring and shooting catalyst. “The majority of the year the ball’s been moving, but we weren’t making as many shots as we wanted to make. But we stuck with our confidence and now those shots are starting to fall for everybody. That’s been the difference for us.
“I think we stuck together through the storm, whatever was going on,” White added. “Everybody in this locker room, we can’t do it individually. Whatever was going on outside, we didn’t pay attention to and didn’t care. We were just trying to do the right things and coach and the whole staff has done a terrific job of keeping us together and staying positive.”
And now with elimination from the In-Season Tournament and the league starting those knockout games Monday, the Bulls get a breather with games just next Wednesday and Friday against others left out. So there are wins on the table. They’ve been there before. It looks more now like they might know how to digest them.
“The last couple of games have been indicative of (a high tempo),” said DeRozan. “Now it’s about being consistent with it. We’ve had moments of it, periods, quarters, halves when we did it. Now we have been putting together a full game with it, and now we’ve got to be consistent with that if we want to pull out wins.
“Now you have to get back to back to back wins,” said DeRozan. “Something you can build off. Understanding what it takes to win games, how we need to share the ball, help each other defensively. These two games should be a blueprint of us feeding off that. We’ve got to get hungry from here on out.”
The Bulls were big dogs eating again Saturday following their dramatic overtime win against Milwaukee Thursday.
No big early deficit this time as they led 32-29 after the first quarter and Caruso added another pair of threes in the first half. Talk about who is that guy. Coming into the game, Caruso had made the winning shot in a third of the Bulls wins. But he had to sit out the second half, so you know it was painful.
“Same stuff that’s been happening; I got kicked,” he said. “It’s like a loading on the big toe. Serious enough for me not to finish the game. We’ll figure it out. I’m (day to day).”
After Caruso departed, the Pelicans hit the Bulls with a 14-3 late second quarter run and carried a 61-53 lead into halftime with Williamson and Ingram charting 11 each.
But there was a difference.
The Bulls were being the tougher guys, the loose ball thieves. They were getting the extra shots and Andre Drummond came in for his usual cameo and take-no-prisoners second shot act.
The Bulls spurted ahead 71-69 the first part of the third quarter with Dosunmu and Patrick Williams sprints to the basket, and then White reentering the game with about four minutes left in the third quarter in a 76-76 game.
White hot Coby made a three and a finger roll layup. And the Bulls were off to an 89-82 lead to close the third quarter. And then in the fourth quarter as soon as White came back in the game—Donovan’s latest security blanket played 40 minutes—White broke a tie at 98 with a three, broke it farther with another three after a Pelicans miss, and drove and was fouled for the more traditional three-point play for a 107-102 Bulls lead with 4:44 left.
When the arena erupted in chants of “Coby, Coby, Coby.”
You know MVP is coming next.
White didn’t disappoint seeing Pelicans defenders sleeping after they made free throws. So White drove into the lane, the Pelicans awoke, and it was too late. DeRozan was open from the corner and made the three; 110-104 Bulls.
“He was finding guys, getting downhill, creating on top of knocking down his shots,” noticed DeRozan. “The development and understanding, that part of the game; not just being a shooter, but being a breakdown offensive player to create for everyone else and organizing (offense). Now he understands what it takes to be a point guard.”
The Bulls pushed their lead to 116-104 on a Craig three with 3:27 left, White with the assist.
But you know these Bulls still will make it interesting.
They did, but the Bulls made all the little plays, DeRozan recovering his own bad pass and deflection to score and then the coup de grace when Vučević saved a loose ball scramble, passed to Coby, two on one and lob to Williams for the dagger.
“I knew if I threw it high enough to where (Jonas) Valančiūnas wouldn’t get it, Pat is so athletic and he’d get it,” said White. “That’s been becoming his thing at the end of games, the monster dunks.”
After his buddy Coby’s monster games.
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