After a horrendous loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday, the Bulls really needed to end their five-game road trip on a high note against the lowly Wizards. While it wasn’t pretty for much of the night, the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn a 107-94 triumph to end the trip 2-3.
As it often is, it was DeMar DeRozan bringing the Bulls home in the fourth after they led by just two points after three. DeRozan scored 14 of his game-high 32 points in the final frame, making six of his seven shot attempts. This came after he was largely terrible through three quarters, with a bunch of forced shot attempts and complaining to the officials when he wasn’t getting calls on his pump fakes. DDR had 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting through three quarters, but he came through when the Bulls needed him to finish with a more respectable 12-of-27 shooting line.
Nikola Vucevic was the other star of the show for the Bulls, finishing with 27 points on 12-of-19 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He also racked up four assists in a stellar all-around performance. The Bulls made a concerted effort to get Vooch going in this one, with 15 of those 27 points coming in a dominant first-quarter showing en route to a team total of 60 points in the paint for the night. It was no surprise that his scoring tailed off as the game went on, because that’s what typically happens, but he was still important late in the game when the Wizards were sending traps at DeRozan. Vooch set up in the middle of the floor and acted as an outlet, and he picked up two assists down the stretch.
Chicago didn’t get any other really notable showings, with Zach LaVine the only other Bull in double figures with 14. He scored all 14 of those points in the second half after a shockingly scoreless first half, including a pair of dagger 3-pointers late in the game. Those were his only 3-pointers of the game as the Bulls were just 6-of-18 from 3-point range, which continues to be a problem for this offense, but they did shoot over 50% from the field.
While nobody else stood out, the visitors did get a much better performance from the bench after the total dud at MSG. 28 bench points isn’t something to write home about, but given we’re talking about one of the lowest-scoring bench units in the NBA, it’s still a decent showing. Coby White had nine points, five assists and four rebounds while notching a game-best plus-18 in the box score, showing a bit more fight on the defensive end than usual. Javonte Green also brought great energy off the bench, scoring nine points and throwing down some truly vicious dunks:
Then there was Patrick Williams, who finally showed more of a pulse after Billy Donovan implored him to be more aggressive. Donovan switched up his rotations a bit for this game, inserting Williams in earlier and also giving him some closing minutes. The youngster responded with a solid performance of six points and seven rebounds, with three of the offensive variety. He had a nice baseline drive to his left and finished strong for an and-1 early in the game, and he had an offensive rebound and putback dunk in the fourth quarter. Williams also played stellar defense in his 25 minutes, which was a major step up after his minutes had been dwindling. Given how he was trending, this performance was a step in the right direction. We’ll see if he can build on it.
This was a much-needed win against a bum team, but it was looking dicey for a bit. For the second straight night, the Bulls came out of halftime flat and immediately gave up a big run, a troubling sign given the stakes. They were able to right the ship against a bad Wizards squad missing Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma, thanks in part to all the aforementioned stuff plus the home team shooting just 6-of-26 from 3 while also turning it over 14 times, leading to 21 Bulls points. Chicago can’t afford those kinds of lapses against quality opponents.
The Bulls now come home from this five-game road trip for a five-game home stand before one final road game in Minnesota to close the regular season. They’re 44-32 and sit a half-game ahead of the Raptors and 1.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers, with tiebreakers over both. The Clippers with Paul George back are next up on Thursday, followed by the Heat, Bucks, Celtics and Hornets. We’ll see if they can finally string together some legitimately quality wins and clinch a top-six spot at home. Alex Caruso’s back injury will be something to monitor after he seemed to be hurting a bit on Tuesday, and there should be another Lonzo Ball update coming soon.