When every game is close, sometimes you'll lose
a legit great Bulls performance doesn't get the result
Monday night in Phoenix saw the Bulls put on perhaps their best stretch of basketball all season, peaking at a 23 point lead a few minutes into the 3rd quarter.
The Bulls were dominating the glass allowing them to get out and run, collapsing the defense, and find open shooters. Up until that point the Bulls hit 12 of their 24 three point attempts, led by Alex Caruso with five makes.
The Suns were on a back-to-back, have no bench, a starting center getting outplayed by Nikola Vucevic, and ultimately try and pass off Bradley Beal as their third “star”, so it certainly looked to me like they’d just roll over in this, as it’s just 1 of 82. They were getting to the foul line a lot more often, but that was not due to offensive force but the difference in defensive effort on both sides: the Bulls do reach and grab and trip and barrel-into ballhandlers a lot (it forces turnovers! Ayo had himself several great plays), whereas the Suns were oftentimes not even close enough to foul.
I can’t accurately assess if that Phoenix defense really picked up much, at least not in the shadow of what was a spectacular Kevin Durant run. After the Bulls peak leading margin, Durant went 12 of 17 for 30 points in 17 minutes, closing the game on a Jordan-over-Ehlo-esque double-clutch midrange jumper.
Let’s quickly pivot back to something good, which was Coby White doing his part to fend off the Durant-led Suns rally:
White’s ascendance continues to be the only (?) good thing about this season. The rest brings to mind the bigger issues in roster construction and development: the Bulls simply do not have many tall non-centers. Durant fared much worse when Alex Caruso was on the floor, but Caruso isn’t too far from the floor (he’s short, is what I’m saying) and can’t stay on the court very long. They have one tallie in Patrick Williams, who looks to be a very good wing defender and can hit open threes, but has not progressed otherwise to where the team doesn’t get much else when he’s required on the floor.
Ultimately, though encouraging and fun to watch, as a game it was ‘clutch’ again. The Bulls have been absurdly successful in these kinds of contests this year: they’ve had the most such minutes and a stellar defensive rating in them. But as we all should know (including the front office, fingers crossed!), that success rate is highly volatile and random. They can look underwhelming and get a victory in the clutch due to an opponent missed FT or three, or lose a heartbreaker in a game you looked really good in against a quality opponent.
(blow was the worst example of randomized heartbreak. You get what you want - Bradley Beal shortarming the floater - and the ball bounces out to an open Durant three)
Unfortunately, in my consumption of post-game ‘analysis’ I came across the official show complaining that DeMar DeRozan - who hit multiple late baskets and wins them more games than I can easily reference - was shooting instead of just handing the ball to Coby. The words “this team needed Zach LaVine” were also said.
Clearly a bad attempt at a lesson from this game. The actual one is that this team needs to raise its overall talent level to where things aren’t so variable in the first place. Of course more higher-end talent like Durant, but also better role-player talent that can try and guard guys like Durant.
That’s why in the coming weeks, the actual on-court record will matter less than their record in transactions. MAKE A TRADE.
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