Rookie Ayo Dosunmu comes up clutch as Bulls beat Cavs 102-101
Chicago is now 3-0 in the preseason with the finale coming up against Memphis on Friday at the United Center.
Remind Me Later •
Oh, that Ayo Dosunmu.
Given a chance Sunday to show out, the rookie from the University of Illinois showed up and saved the Bulls with a pair of last-minute baskets and nine points in his fourth quarter run to keep the Bulls preseason championship hopes alive with a 102-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"He doesn't have any fear at all, offensively or defensively," Zach LaVine said about the Chicago-born rookie. "Dude is stone cold. Doesn't care about the situation. Going in there, he's going to play his heart out. He showed that (Sunday). He pretty much won us the game. Went in there and had a couple of game winning shots in seven minutes. Alize (Johnson) played great. That second unit came in with the physicality of how we were playing before. So kudos to them."
Which perhaps raises a question for the Bulls new dynamic group of starters. Sure, they might look good against the rest of the NBA. But can they hold off the Bulls reserves and keep their starting jobs?
That may be a bit of hyperbole as the Bulls went to 3-0 in the preseason, though with somewhat less superiority.
After consecutive wins during which they dominated and led at times by more than 40 points, this was Lauri's revenge as the former Bull had a team-best 18 points and the current Bulls weren't feeling the Pointer Sisters. They didn't seem quite so excited.
DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 23 points and the main starters all cycled above 30 minutes as coach Billy Donovan prioritized building chemistry. LaVine had 13 points and Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic each had 10, Vucevic also had nine rebounds and three more missed threes to get his imprecise preseason streak to 13. Ball hustled around for four blocks and three steals and the Bulls again had double-digit steals with Vucevic adding three more. But the starters lacked the love of life enthusiasm present in the first two games.
They were spending a second day in Cleveland, which may have had something to do with it.
So the starters left a group of Alize and Ayo and Co. with an 86 tie with about seven minutes left, Alize playing the 7-5 Tacko Fall and Dosunmu finally getting to run his show again like in college.
Alize, one of the Bulls Johnsons, is a springy 6-7 guard/forward/center from Frank Phillips, which is a college in Texas and not a guy.
Which if you will allow reminds me of a famous Jim Valvano story when he started out at Iona College in New York. The peripatetic Valvano was late rushing into a recruit's house after a few other coaches had arrived. Breathless at the door, Valvano spat out quickly, "Jim Valvano, Iona College."
"Imagine that," says the mom, ‘Young man like that owns a college."
Anyway, I digress.
Alize was picked by the Pacers in the second round of the draft at No. 50, didn't play much for Indiana and Brooklyn in three years and a bit more in Ft. Wayne and for Toronto in the G-league. The Bulls signed him last month and with Tony Bradley hurt told Alize's he's now a center.
Alize Sunday in 17 minutes had 14 points, a game high 11 rebounds, won a jump ball from seven foot rookie Evan Mobley, grabbed a DeRozan air ball among three Cavs and scored and late in the game in Ayo time took the time to grab an offensive rebound away from the 7-5 Fall and later deny Fall on a postup.
The Bulls made an effort but weren't able to acquire Paul Millsap in the summer. But Alize is the kind of player Millsap was in college and why Millsap also was a low second round selection, a 6-7 player specializing in rebounding.
"Alize played great," said Donovan. "These (reserves) are competitive, tough, hard nosed guys. There's been times in practice that second unit has done a great job (against the starters) holding their own. A guy like Alize I've got a lot of respect for him. He's in their with Tacko Fall battling his tail off and he's in there with Mobley and Jarrett Allen and it's like, ‘How does this guy come down with rebounds?' He's just got this tenacious, tenacious attitude about him.
"You have to account for (Alize)," Donovan added. "He's so aggressive. He's a quick jumper. That group kind of walked into a situation where when the starters came out it really wasn't a great run for those guys in terms of what they left and that (reserve) group battled and got down and found a way to get back in the game.
"The one thing with Alize, he has rebounded at every level he's been at whether it was high school or college and now the NBA. That's what he's just going to do," said Donovan. "The rim protection, you don't get that. But you get other things. These three games I have not noticed we've really gotten hurt with his size. There may be be times we do. He's in there and battles and fights and holds his own around the basket with anybody. You saw today he's standing in the lane with a lot of big guys and he's in there still coming down with rebounds and incredibly active."
This game was close throughout, 28-27 Bulls after one, tied at 52 at halftime and 79-75 Bulls after three with a 10-point third quarter from DeRozan, who came out looking for his shot more. The Cavs got down nine early in the fourth quarter, their largest deficit of the game. But they squared it with a Markkanen top dunk and an 18 footer and with about five minutes remaining the Cavs led by six and Bulls October perfection seemed a memory.
And then it was left to Dosunmu to close, a baseline runner with 31.6 seconds left and then a cross over and step through floater past Cedi Osman for the winning points with 13.8 seconds before Fall put back a missed three at the buzzer for the one-point margin.
"I do believe we have a really good team with really good guys that care for each other and are really unselfish," said LaVine. "We have to mesh, be on the same page. But we can be something special because we're workers and we care about each other. Talent helps a whole lot, but it doesn't mean everything because you have to have some heart and players who play with each other."
And these Bulls seem to have a lot in reserve.
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