This was a matchup with two bad teams having very poor starts to their seasons, but it’s good that the Bulls were the better bad squad in their 115-107 win over the Wizards on Tuesday night. Certainly better than the alternative...
Russell Westbrook with a message to his team after tonight loss.— Quinton Mayo (@RealQuintonMayo) December 30, 2020
He tagged every single player in the photo as well. pic.twitter.com/8Ufsw8Taxs
Yes, a loss to the Chicago Bulls will spark some soul-searching, because after what we saw from the Bulls previously it was notable that they
- turned in a good defensive performance
- took care of the ball
And that was spearheaded in the starters matchup between Coby White and Zach LaVine versus Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. The latter has all the accolades and looked to be their main advantage heading into this game, but it was LaVine and White who came out on top.
The Bulls duo is always (and appropriately) looked upon skeptically defensively, especially when against the many high-scoring guard combos in the league. But in this game both Wiz stars were pretty bleh. The totals make Beal’s night a bit better but he really shot poorly before his last stint. And Westbrook was able to get to some midrange spots but that is a good outcome.
Baby steps for the Bulls: I saw some strong defensive possessions in that first half. Younger guys are improving on help rotations. Helped cut off Beal 3x on Markkanen mismatch.— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 30, 2020
They held Washington to 46 points in that first half, opponents came in averaging 70 against them. pic.twitter.com/4R7DuRe9BC
Before Beal came in for his final stint, his team went down 19 after the Bulls went on a 9-0 with the lineup of White/Temple/Sato/Porter/WCJ. To spite the Wiz I am taking out that part of the game and taking a look at the backcourt stats from the start to that 10-minute mark in the 4th.
Obviously the turnovers are the huge difference here, as the Bulls followed up their 19.4% turnover rate against the Warriors to a paltry 11.5% here, with the Wizards at 16.6%. On the offensive end, the Bulls backcourt this year has simply melted down when any defensive pressure had been applied, and undoubtedly some of their competence in this area was due to just Wizards laziness.
Defensively, Zach LaVine had four steals???
Two of LaVine's steals from last night where he’s off the ball, one off a pass from Beal and another from Westbrook. pic.twitter.com/Y0F0zx0CmD— BlogABull.com (@BullsBlogger) December 30, 2020
And while we would expect the Wizards duo to be the better passers, White and LaVine held them even in that department. This assist came in more garbage-y time, but White-to-Williams is a dream connection for the next great Bulls team:
One of the better pass I've ever seen Coby make. He's been all over the place, but its so refreshing to see these flashes pic.twitter.com/sacnXhOhY6— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) December 30, 2020
Sure, currently they only look great against the Washington Wizards: in the more competitive portion of the game, the Wiz missed 22 three-pointers, and more than a few were wide open (Raul Neto really distinguished himself going 0-5). But for one game the Bulls didn’t roll out the #SeeRedCarpet to the basket, and cutting down on the live-ball turnovers helped in that area too.
- The Bulls veterans, all ex-Wizards in Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky, and Garrett Temple (Sato arrived in Washington the year after Temple left) made for really some nice bench lineups. Temple tied for the team lead registering a +14 in his over 28 minutes. They shot a combined 7-17 from three, plus had 9 combined assists (Sato with 6). I am still looking side-eyed at Billy Donovan’s philosophy of letting the young guys fail in the starting lineups but it does mean there’s some decent bench pieces now, and it looks like they will be in closing lineups too if the starters keep the games competitive.
- Patrick Williams watch: still rules
- We’ll have to see how the rotation shakes out if Lauri Markkanen misses more time. He exited the 2nd half early so it meant Daniel Gafford minutes. Thaddeus Young is healthy but received a DNP. I would start Otto Portly, who’s rounded into a large shape as a power forward anyway. Having big wings like Porter, Williams, Young and Chandler Hutchison presents some nice forward options going forward, though you’d wish there was better shooting.
- Second straight game where Wendell Carter Jr. wasn’t a trainwreck, which is progress. His lone 3-point attempt was way off and he missed both his FTs but had 4 baskets in the paint helped by setting good screens. All of his makes came on assists.