The Bulls return home to meet up with the San Antonio Spurs after thumping the Cleveland Cavaliers, 118-106, Saturday in Rock City. Once again Zach LaVine showed the basketball world why he's worthy of being an All-Star next month, leading the way with 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
The 6'5" guard dominated from start to finish, regularly blowing past defenders to get to the hoop, knocking down jumpers from behind the 3-point arc (five treys), and breaking down double-teams and getting to the charity stripe (going 7 of 8) to lead the Bulls to their second win in their last three outings.
LaVine's backcourt running mate, Tomas Satoransky, also had a good night, shooting 8-of-11 from the field in posting 19 points to go along with six assists, six rebounds and three steals.
As a team, Chicago connected on a blistering 51.8% from the field (44-of-85) overall, 36.4% from distance (12-of-33), and 75% from the line (18-of-24). The Bulls also won the turnover battle, committing 11 while forcing 21 out of Cleveland, and outpacing the Cavs, 27-16, in points off turnovers.
In many respects the game was pocketed by the end of the third quarter, with Chicago flat out dominating the stanza, 40-19. In fact, the Bulls outscored the Cavs, 74-45, over the second and third quarters, combined, putting the game away.
Tonight, is the start of another busy week for the Bulls, who'll play four games over the next seven days, with three on the road, first stopping in Indy on Wednesday, Brooklyn on Friday, and Toronto on Sunday. As for San Antonio, tonight is the second of a back-to-back set with them coming off a 110-106 loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors yesterday down in the Alamo City.
Yesterday was a tough and emotional day for everyone in the NBA with the crushing news of future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gigi, perishing in a helicopter crash. Both the Spurs and Raptors openly admit their hearts were heavy and they didn't want to play after learning the news as Bryant and his family have always been beloved throughout the league, and the world in general. But play they did, with Toronto running out to an early 19-point lead, and then blowing it entirely by the start of the fourth, only to bounce back in pulling-off a four-point road win. DeMar DeRozan, who leads the Spurs in scoring this season at 22.6 per game, posted 14 points yesterday, along with reserve guard, Derrick White. Veteran LaMarcus Aldridge, a seven-time All-Star who averaged 19.3 points coming into yesterday, took just six shots and scored 10 points, but did grab 10 rebounds to lead San Antonio on the glass.
A top priority for Chicago tonight will be attempting to keep both DeRozan and Aldridge under control, as both can take over a game by themselves. However with that being said, a primary key for success every night for the Bulls is their ability to deliver a hardnosed, take-no-prisons approach at both ends of the floor.
For Chicago to post points on the board, they must play unselfishly, generously sharing the ball, freely skipping it from player-to-player and from side-to-side while continuously searching for opportunities get into the paint and attack the basket.
All five Chicagoans must always stay involved in what's going on. The Bulls can't allow their offense to slow down, with the ball ending up stuck in any one player's hands while everyone else watches. To succeed, their attack cannot become just a series of isolation, one-on-one battles.
Defensively, Chicago must be physical, delivering a bruising effort in defending the 3-point arc as well as the paint. As a team, they must always go hard after every rebound and loose ball, establishing the notion that they will outhustle the Spurs in every way.
To accomplish each of these goals Chicago must take the floor focused and prepared, communicating effectively on defense, with everyone understanding when the time is right to jump passing lanes and double-team the ball. On the year, the Bulls lead the NBA in forcing turnovers at 18.1 per game and scoring off those miscues at 21.2 points per game.
Saturday against Cleveland, Chicago was able to hold the Cavaliers to just 8 fastbreak points, the 17th time this season the Bulls have held an opponent to under 10 this season. In fact, on the season Chicago opponents are averaging the second-fewest fastbreak points per game at 10.4.
To end up on top tonight, Chicago must get contributions from everyone, up-and-down the bench. The Bulls are missing several key players due to injuries, and thus tonight is another opportunity for a bench player to step up and play a significant role in winning and competing. The Spurs, much like the Bulls are also battling for position and looking to make the playoffs. They're talented and extremely well coached, too. Both squads are at their best when they play fast, thus this evening should be a fun, entertaining game.