the LaVine-less Bulls earned a real win
there's a formula for an average team, here. that's a lot better than awful
Listen, I can go back to any underdog victory the Bulls have had over the past 25 years and deem it fake. The Bulls, despite being in a major market and winning six championships, love being the plucky undermanned (read: inexpensive) franchise who can delight us on rare occasion in the midst of an 82 game (!) season.
Last night’s win against the Sixers was not fake. OK, maybe Philly was on the 3rd game in 4 nights. But they were at home, and not missing anybody significant. The Bulls may have been a bit lucky in they were still ‘missing’ Zach LaVine (jokes), but ultimately they just played a good game and earned the win over an actual contender.
Considering where this Bulls team was just last month, the following is high praise!
The Bulls have had some schedule luck in their now 6-3 record since LaVine’s
trade holdout foot injury, but they have also exhibited a somewhat repeatable method of success. Looking at every team’s last 9 games, the Bulls are producing much better on both sides of the ball: 13th on defense and 12th on offense.
It’s certainly easy to see how much the defense improved by simply removing an individual who didn’t care in LaVine. And though it was through the unsavory motivation of pouting towards getting more offensive touches, it looks like Vucevic cares a bit more on defense lately as well. The Sixers still own the league’s best offense, and the Bulls held them to defensive rating under 111 (36th percentile). Look at Coby White of all people stepping up and making things uncomfortable for Embiid in his final bid for victory.
Offensively they may have found something as well. Coby White continues to impress, with a newly more aggressive scoring mentality keeping the Bulls in games, including erasing their still-present early deficits.
Even when Coby is not hitting everything, they have gotten timely (so, a bit lucky) 3 point shooting elsewhere. Last night, in the final 6:51 when Vuc re-entered the closing lineup, he went 2-3 from distance while Patrick Williams - who has been awesome as 3-and-D just don’t ask him to do anything else - had 2 makes of his own and the team went 4-7.
(Vuc looking to the heavens after his 2nd made three. It was pretty funny seeing Embiid just totally ignore him all night, and while it sucks a bit of personal joy from me when he leads the team in shots, credit to him for continuing to attack in the face of opponent disrespect)
There’s also a nightly dominance of the offensive glass. In this 9 game segment the Bulls lead the league grabbing an astounding 35% of available offensive rebounds.
Then you still have great individual clutch performers in Caruso and DeRozan in their closing lineup. Sometimes it doesn’t totally work or look particularly productive, but it’s better than when the anti-clutch LaVine butts in.
How much of this is sustainable? And even if sustained is it ultimately average?Caruso had thoughts on that:
“Yeah, for sure [we are a playoff team]. I think we have enough talent clearly. I mean, we just won at Philly. We won at Miami, went 2-1 on this road trip. We were up two buckets with 3 minutes to go in Miami in the second game. That team was in the Finals last year and this is a team that’s trying to win the Finals this year---two of the best teams. We beat Milwaukee.”
That’s a great attitude…for a player. Hopefully we don’t hear the exact same out of the Bulls front office after the trade deadline.