So to recap, your Chicago Bulls lost four straight games, including one to the Orlando Magic, at home... and then promptly took down the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the East’s creme of the crop, in consecutive contests?
Who are these guys?
Head coach Billy Donovan was quick to employ a lot of his depth early, with all nine Bulls players in tonight’s rotation used during the game’s first quarter. Javonte Green was Donovan’s first substitution, and he made his presence felt almost instantly, scoring eight points in the period, second only to Zach LaVine’s 10.
Chicago also showed off some defensive aptitude at the start of the game. Patrick Williams exhibited that tantalizing Paw athleticism with an excellent early block over perennial Milwaukee MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo:
The highlight of the period, however, was starting point guard Ayo Dosunmu’s excellent chase-down block of every Bulls fan’s least-favorite Buck, Grayson Allen. (Face-puncher Bobby Portis, of course, is every Bulls fan’s second-least-favorite Buck.)
Wanna see Ayo block Grayson Allen? pic.twitter.com/l7gjDq60sT— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 24, 2022
Oh yeah, that’s the stuff. Somewhat atypically, perhaps because of Donovan’s quick rotation changes, the Bulls had a pretty robust first quarter, and were only down by a point heading into the second, 33-32.
After the game got knotted up at 38-38, the Bucks went on a 12-0 run. A Coby White triple ended the tear.
Patrick Williams taking some fearless treys.
Zach LaVine was whistled for his third foul with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter, but Billy Donovan wisely opted to keep him in.
Chicago’s three-point shooting, with recently-recovered Coby White playing for the recently-injured Goran Dragic, proved to be a big story of the night. The Bulls shot 12-of-23 from deep for the half.
A nice Vucevic post-up had Chicago sitting pretty with 61 points through two quarters and the seconds ticking down:
"Posted him up like Raisin Bran" pic.twitter.com/8A83ok8IxB— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 24, 2022
This buzzer-beater from Jrue Holiday put the Bucks up by a single point, 62-61, entering halftime.
On the Bulls side, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan led the way with 13 points apiece. Dosunmu and Green had eight in the first half. Brook Lopez led all Bucks with 16 points.
DeMar DeRozan got cooking early in the third quarter, scoring the Bulls’ first seven points of the second half. Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, scored all nine of the Bucks’ first points in the frame.
Patrick Williams had another of his Good Patrick Williams games, looking assertive and confident and taking plenty of jumpers. He dribbled into a nice take from the free-throw line early in the third quarter. Zach LaVine settled for jumpers during a lot of the third and fourth quarters. He looked progressively rustier as the game continued.
DeRozan cleverly drew a foul, Antetokounmpo’s fourth, with some committed flopping at the 5:54 mark of the frame. The two-time MVP had to sit out the rest of the frame, which opened things up for Chicago in a big way.
DeRozan did a terrific job all game, but especially in the third quarter, of drawing foul charges. He also did the lion’s share of the Bulls’ scoring throughout the quarter.
DDR actually put in work on both ends in the third, that’s how much he was feeling it:
Watch him convert this steal into a breakaway dunk:
The Bulls’ intense defensive effort persisted throughout the frame. Check out this all-hands-on-deck offense-into-defense approach for kind of a group block (Andre Drummond got the official credit):
It's a defensive clinic in Milwaukee pic.twitter.com/nvkwXhc8ci— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 24, 2022
The Bulls closed out the quarter on an 11-4 run. DeMar DeRozan actually was involved in all but two of Chicago’s final 15 points, either as a scorer or passer. DDR scored 18 points in the third frame alone. He had a total of 31 points through three periods. DeRozan was feeling it so much that he wrapped up the quarter with a heat-check off-the-dribble triple.
With Giannis returning to the floor at the start of the fourth quarter, the Bucks got right back into the game thanks to an 8-0 run.
Javonte Green landed awkwardly on his wrist with 7:58 remaining after being violently hacked while attempting a dunk by Bobby Portis. He writhed around for a while, but did complete his free throws. Why Billy Donovan didn’t request a ref review to consider that foul a Flagrant 1 is beyond me. Green was quickly subbed out for Vucevic and would not return to the floor down the stretch.
Caruso guarded Giannis a lot near the close of the game, though the Bulls made sure to send a double-team to cover the Greek Freak when he got the rock.
Three-point shooting really goosed the Bulls’ offense late, as when Nikola Vucevic drained back-to-back three-pointers from opposite corners:
Vooch hit back-to-back threes from opposite corners pic.twitter.com/2ZAKRQAqWH— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 24, 2022
White and Vucevic would prove to be the ultimate heroes of the day. An Antetokounmpo midrange jumper (he was nailing a lot of those) put the Bucks up by a possession, 109-106, with 1:35 remaining in regulation.
Then, Coby White drove into the lane while Bucks defenders descended upon him. He passed back out to Alex Caruso, who drove inside as White inched towards the corner. He nailed a massive triple to tie the game with 1:15 remaining:
An Antetokounmpo offensive foul at the other end got the Bulls the ball back with no damage done by Milwaukee. White showed no fear, launching and hitting a second straight corner three with 46.1 seconds remaining, this time off a DeRozan drive-and-kick.
Donovan did a little hockey substituting late, swapping in Patrick Williams for White when the Bulls had to clamp down on defense. Jrue Holiday passed the ball out of bounds, yielding another empty possession for Milwaukee. White was brought back in for Paw during the dead ball break. Nikola Vucevic promptly made his third three of the quarter with this clutch triple at the top of the key:
That take, Chicago’s final made field goal of the night, put the Bulls up by six points with 20.6 seconds left. Antetokounmpo drove inside for a quick layup to cut the lead to four points with 9.6 seconds left.
The Bulls got possession back, and closed out the W thanks to a trio of free throws from DeMar DeRozan (he split his two attempts) and Patrick Williams.
Fiserv Forum was pretty evenly split between Bulls and Bucks fans, and in a close game roared during pretty much every possession late. This was a fun one, folks.
Chicago had a season-most 18 made triples (they shot 42.9% from deep). It’s crazy how much of an impact White made in the game. In 25:25, he went 5-of-10 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from long range, finishing with 14 points and a +7. The Bulls massively benefitted from having somebody just be a bucket from deep, shooting with no fear. Until Lonzo Ball and his 7.4 triples a game return, does Coby White have to stay with Chicago?
As has been his custom lately, DeRozan looked incredible throughout, going 14-of-25 from the field (including 2-of-3 from deep!), plus 6-of-7 from the charity stripe, for a total of 36 points. He also dished out eight assists, grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots, and had a steal to boot. Williams shot sparingly, but well, going 3-of-7 from the floor (2-of-4 from deep) and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line for 11 points. Vucevic (7-of-14 shooting) and Zach (6-of-17 shooting) chipped in 18 points apiece. Green was the team’s other double-digit scorer, notching 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting (2-of-3 from long range).
Defensively, the Bulls also looked sharp, scoring 19 points off the Bucks’ 19 turnovers.
Suddenly, Chicago is 8-10 and coming off two of its most convincing victories of the season. Who is this team?