clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bulls vs. Sixers final score: LaVine hits 11 threes, Nikola Vucevic triple-double in 126-112 win

the Bulls capitalize on life without Joel Embiid

Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Is Zach Attack... back?

Our Chicago Bulls’ second-best player turned in his best game of the 2022-23 season last night on the road against a Joel Embiid-free Philadelphia 76ers club.

In a 126-112 Bulls win, LaVine scored 41 points on 14-of-19 shooting from the floor, highlighted by his knocking down a completely insane 11 (!) three-pointers on 13 tries from long range, with seven of those makes coming off catch-and-shoot attempts. LaVine also defended capably on and off the ball, and was showcased as a facilitator (he finished with six assists) for Chicago in his most complete game of the year.

The third member of the “big three”, Nikola Vucevic, had a night to remember himself. With Philly’s All-NBA big man replaced by, uh, Montrezl Harrell, Vucevic notched an efficient triple-double, while the Bulls looked to him, too, to help set up a lot of the club’s offense with playmaking. He finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting (2-of-3 from deep), 18 rebounds, 10 assists, and two blocks.

Chicago put forth a middling defensive effort in the game’s opening quarter, but that can be attributed in part to playing without lead point-of-attack defender Alex Caruso (right ankle sprain) and forward Javonte Green.

Patrick Williams, who usually likes to put up a solid first half and a terrible second half, started off quite shakily in the first half this time, scoring zero points in the game’s first two quarters before flipping the script and absolutely going off in the third quarter. His dribbling could use some work though:

At least DeMar DeRozan continued to do DeMar DeRozan things early on, even against supposed wing stopper Matisse Thybulle:

With Joel Embiid (who’s 12-0 against Chicago for his career) missing his second straight game for Philadelphia due to a sore left foot, the Bulls looked to feed Nikola Vucevic in the post a ton tonight. The 6’10” Chicago center, en route to his 20th double-double of the 2022-23 season (and his first triple-double of the year!), got off to a hot start in the first frame, scoring nine points and pulling down seven boards. Even still, thanks mostly to a balanced scoring effort from their perimeter players, Philadelphia led Chicago at the end of the quarter, 30-25.

The Bulls managed to redeem their lackluster first quarter effort with an excellent late finish to the second frame. In a scary moment, Derrick Jones Jr. landed awkwardly and had to exit the game with an apparent wrist injury, though he did wind up returning later.

After falling behind by as many as 13 points in the second quarter alone, the Bulls went on a 10-0 run down the closing stretch of the half. Sixers All-Star guard James Harden was initially ice cold with an 0-for-9 start from the floor, and scored his first few points with under a minute remaining. Zach LaVine scored the Bulls’ last four points down the stretch put help Chicago finish the half leading by four, 59-55.

The Bulls’ “Big Three” all managed double-digit scoring in the first half: Vucevic already achieved his double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, LaVine notched 13 points and five assists, and DeRozan had a relatively quiet 10 points.

Patrick Williams woke up in the third quarter, scoring seven points in the period’s first opening 90 seconds alone.

The Paw would go on to score 16 points on 7-of-7 field goal shooting in the frame (after, again, going scoreless in the first half) and make me regret talking smack about him in the first half.

Zach LaVine was really the story of the quarter, though, as he suddenly was on a massive heater, to the delight of the Chicago bench:

Behind the smooth scoring of Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and, yes, the aforementioned Patrick Williams, the Bulls went on an 8-0 run to take a marginal 77-69 lead midway through the frame.

Together, Zach and Vooch started off 10-of-10 from deep (Zach alone was 8-for-8) overall.

Zach more than anyone else was the star of the show tonight, and given how well some other Bulls performed, that’s saying something. He shot 5-of-6 from long range in the third period alone. He finished the quarter with 19 points in the frame.

The Bulls led by as many as 19 points in that third quarter. Chicago significantly outscored Philadelphia in the period when the dust had settled, 40-29. The Bulls headed into the fourth quarter up 99-84.

Philadelphia narrowed the gap with an aggressive 13-5 tear to start the fourth quarter. The Bulls pulled away again, only to see Philadelphia pull within seven on a second 13-5 run, keyed by big shooting performances from Tobias Harris and James Harden.

Things looked a bit dire there for a spell. Chicago went on a massive field goal drought for about three-and-a-half minutes until DeMar worked some of his midrange magic.

Interestingly, Billy Donovan opted to play much out of the quarter with a lineup of four Bulls starters and Coby White in for Ayo Dosunmu. White’s offensive upside and dialed-in defense made him a solid threat to close out the evening. He made a pair of clutch triples and helped disrupt the Sixers’ late-game zone defense as Philly threatened to get back into the game.

Donovan eventually did bring Dosunmu back in for White, with 1:53 left, ostensibly to help keep the Sixers at bay with Chicago leading 121-108.

LaVine’s 11 triples represent the second-most in Bulls history. It also marked the third time in his career that he would put up 10 or more three-pointers. Here’s that final trey:

Uncharacteristically good three-point shooting at an uncharacteristically respectable volume proved huge tonight for Chicago, as the Bulls shot 20-of-34 (58.8%) from long range. A lot of those triples came off turnovers, as the Bulls scored 20 points off the Sixers’ seven turnovers. Chicago, thanks in large part to the efforts of Vucevic in the post, also enjoyed big advantages over Philadelphia in points in the paint (46-38) and rebounding (45-38).

Between tonight’s victory against the Sixers and Wednesday’s win against the Brooklyn Nets, are the Bulls actually... improving? Chicago has now gone 7-3 since the nadir of its season, an embarrassing 150-126 defeat to a Minnesota Timberwolves team missing its two best frontcourt players.

Maybe, but tonight’s result feels a bit fluky. The Bulls shot outstandingly well from three, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic couldn’t miss from anywhere (per NBA History, only two players have ever made 11 threes while shooting 80% from long range — LaVine and Stephen Curry), DJJ and White had better-than-average performances, and Chicago was playing a Philadelphia team without its best player. The team is still a couple games under .500, good for just 9th in the East, at 18-21.