LaVineOverDetroit
Zach LaVine elevates for 3 of his 33 points in the Bulls win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Bulls find themselves in the middle of another win streak, having gone 2-1 this week, and are now 12-19 on the season. Let’s get into it!

The Look Back:

The Bulls week started Monday in Oklahoma City against the Thunder with a tale of two halves. The offense looked brilliant to start the game, as the Bulls jumped out to a blistering 37 – 16 lead. By half-time they had built a comfortable 68 – 49 cushion, but no lead has been comfortable enough for this Chicago team. The Thunder, led by aging star Chris Paul, stormed back putting up 60 second half points while allowing just 38 by the Bulls. Zach LaVine had a game high 39 points but it wasn’t enough to get past OKC. Final score: 109 – 106.

Wednesday’s game in Washington D.C. allowed the Bulls to flip this seasons script with a big come-from-behind over-time victory against the Wizards. Lauri Markkanen scored 31 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the 110 – 109 win, but it was the clutch free-throws and brilliant playmaking of Zach LaVine down the stretch that sealed the victory. The game winning overtime bucket by the Bulls illustrated just how intent LaVine is on becoming the superstar we all hope he can be. It was very reminiscent of the final play from the Bulls loss to the Toronto Raptors just last week. Just like last week, LaVine drove the lane with time winding down and was met at the rim by a big defender. Unlike last week, LaVine didn’t force the shot through the teeth of the defense, he dumped the ball off to the wide open and waiting Wendell Carter Jr for an acrobatic lay-up. It’s taken six seasons in the NBA for LaVine to understand the importance of playmaking for his stardom, but he seems to finally be getting it.

LaVine’s growth as a distributor was illustrated even more in Saturday nights win over the Pistons in Detroit. The Pistons made a point of double teaming LaVine on most possessions he touched the ball. Rather than forcing the issue like he might have in the past, LaVine passed out of the double team to open teammates, prompting easy buckets for the Bulls. Even with Detroit’s defensive focus set squarely on Zach, he still found a way to score 33 points and lead the Bulls in assists with 5. Big games from both Tomas Satoransky (16 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) and Coby White (19 points, 5-7 from the 3, 5 rebounds) helped the Bulls stroll to a 119 – 107 win.

The Look Ahead:

Even with the loss to OKC, the Bulls have been playing much better basketball to end the calendar year. They have two games against easy(?) opponents this week before they face a gauntlet of playoff bound teams to start the New Year.

– Monday, December 23rd, the Bulls finish their four game road trip in Orlando against the Magic (12 – 17). The Magic currently own the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and are just one game ahead the Bulls for that playoff spot. This will be the two teams first meeting of the season and should be a great test for Chicago. The Magic rely on the three headed monster of Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, and Aaron Gordon to power past teams. The resurrection of Markelle Fultz and the length of Jonathan Isaac are also issues the Bulls will have to deal with.

– After a break for Christmas, the Bulls are back home on Saturday, December 28th, to finish off the season series against the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls have convincingly beaten Trae Young and the Hawks, scoring 249 points in their previous two meetings. Kris Dunn has disrupted Young’s offensive rhythm, and Zach LaVine has exploited the Hawks lackadaisical defense. We’ll see if the Bulls can continue that trend.

MVP of Week 9: Zach LaVine (4)

Sure, Zach LaVine averaged 32 points a game this week, but I’m really giving him the MVP for his decision making in the Bulls two victories. LaVine really wants to be a superstar and it looks as though he is starting to understand that winning takes more than just scoring a bunch of points every night. He is learning from his mistakes, and he is making winning plays. It’s the most encouraging development of this disappointing season.

MVP runners up for this week are Tomas Satoransky and Lauri Markkanen, both of whom seem to be adjusting to their roles in the offense. Sato and Lauri are playing a much more aggressive brand of basketball, and they’re finally putting up the numbers we expected from them at the beginning of the season. The difference their contributions have made is startling. Everything in the offense flows better when they are playing up to their potential. Let’s hope they continue their aggressive play in the New Year.

I plan on taking a break this week to celebrate Christmas. My next post will be the Bulls Update for Week 10, which will drop next Sunday. Until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, thanks for reading, and GO BULLS!

Bulls Win Share Leaders:

  1. Wendell Carter Jr  3.1
  2. Zach LaVine  2.2
  3. Tomas Satoransky  2.1

Bull Per Game +/- Leaders (20 or more games played):

  1. Wendell Carter Jr  + 0.9
  2. Tomas Satoransky + 0.6
  3. Kris Dunn 0.0