In the second game of a back to back and on the road, the Chicago Bulls got a big offensive night from all of their key performers. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan were cooking all night as they scored 30 and 35 points respectively, and then Nikola Vucevic stepped up in the fourth quarter, knocking down some key shots from three to help close out the game and finish with 24 points. Between the three of them, they combined for 89 points en route to a 130-118 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.
The trio’s contributions didn’t just come in the scoring department alone. Both DeRozan (10 dimes) and Vucevic (17 rebounds) had double doubles while LaVine logged nine assists. It was all part of what was an efficient night for Chicago offensively, shooting shooting 54.8 percent from the field and an on-fire 48.6 percent from three. The Bulls also did a splendid job of taking care of the basketball, turning the ball over just 10 times.
Back to the beginning where it was a rough start for Chicago as the late-announced return of Trae Young proved to be troublesome. Coby White had a tough time trying to stop the All-Star guard and the Hawks took as much as a nine point lead in the first. Chris Fleming initially stuck with White even after calling a timeout but eventually subbed in Ayo Dosunmu, who did a much better job. The Bulls were able to get some better shots up in the final two minutes and it ended up only being a five point gap by the quarter was over.
The start of the second saw Chicago’s bench plus DeRozan and White hold serve against Atlanta’s mostly reserve unit, looking much sharper on both ends of the court. Then with five minutes left in the half, LaVine started heating up. He was knocking down jumpers off the dribble and also getting to the basket, finishing despite contact, ultimately scoring 17 points in the quarter alone to completely flip the game in the Bulls direction.
"What a shot...23 big ones!"— NBA (@NBA) December 28, 2021
Zach LaVine ends his highest-scoring 1st half of the season with a buzzer beater on NBA TV pic.twitter.com/rtzSPaI0cp
Chicago’s lead expanded into double digits in the third quarter as Coby White added 10 points in the quarter including a dunk after driving down the baseline. White was confident in his shot, hitting two three-pointers to punish the Atlanta defense when they helped off of him. This was the type of offense the Bulls need more consistently from him. He has shown in the past that he can stretch the floor offensively when called upon.
Atlanta switched to a zone briefly near the end of the quarter and the Bulls took advantage with their long-range shooting. Matt Thomas knocked down two shots from downtown, pushing the lead all the way up to 16, and settling in at an 11 point game heading into the final quarter.
In the 4th, Cam Reddish led the Hawks as they began to shoot themselves back into the game, with 11 points within the first six minutes of the quarter. Young also began to knock down shots and also draw fouls to get to the line, with the Bulls using the interesting strategy to have Javonte Green guard Young even with Dosunmu on the court. At their peak in the 4th, it was only a three-point game.
But when the Bulls needed him the most, Vucevic stepped up with back to back three-pointers to make it an eight point game and settle things down a bit. Later, he scored a clutch and-one off an offense rebound then with the shot clock winding down, he threw up a prayer from three and banked it in, extending the lead back to double digits with 3:15 left.
Nikola Vucevic pulls up from behind the arc to beat the buzzer pic.twitter.com/uF8xzeeEfq— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 28, 2021
Then after a DeRozan step back jumper and a Vucevic free throw, LaVine lost the ball on a possession but it went straight to White in the corner who rose up and splashed a three, giving Chicago a 14 point lead with 1:19 to go, sealing the victory for the Bulls.
For the Bulls, White was their 4th highest scorer with 13 points on five of 11 shooting while also adding in four rebounds. Green was the only Chicago scorer to not score double digits with just two points, but contributed in other ways with six rebounds and decent defense. Off the bench, Thomas led with nine points, with five of his six attempts coming from three. Dosunmu pitched in with eight points and two assists and as mentioned above he played really solid defense on Young in the first quarter to stop the Bulls from leaking points. Brown Jr. added seven, making one of his four attempts from downtown while Tyler Cook was the only big who played off the bench with two points and four rebounds.
Atlanta was led by the 33 of Reddish, who hit eight shots from three-point land. Young had 29 points in his return including going 12 of 12 from the line. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 20 points while Gorgui Dieng had 12 points off the bench.
This was a solid win for Chicago. They worked themselves back into the game after a poor start and then their stars caught fire offensively at the perfect times. LaVine took over the second, Vucevic the fourth, and DeRozan was constantly humming from midrange all game as he usually does. It’s a wonderful product to watch when all three of them are lighting it up.
This is the second time in three games the Bulls have scored 130 or more and they haven’t scored less than a 100 points in more than a month. The offense is heating up and it’s no coincidence that it’s happening as soon as they get their main offensive guys back playing together.
Chicago’s record is now 21-10 and they return home for a game against these same Hawks.