Bulls observations: LaVine, Vučević combine for 59 in win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bulls (29-39) notched a take-care-of-business 108-96 victory over a shorthanded, 20-win Detroit Pistons team Sunday night.
The Pistons played without eight players, including their two leading scorers in Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson. The Bulls held Daniel Theis out with a hip contusion suffered in Friday's game against the Celtics, and Troy Brown Jr. missed his 11th straight contest with an ankle sprain.
It's the Bulls' third straight win since Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević returned from their respective absences last week -- and all three have been blowouts.
Here are 10 observations:
1. The Pistons had no answer for Nikola Vučević, who posted 10 points and six rebounds in the first quarter as the Bulls built a 28-18 lead. He hit a couple nice jumpers on the pop and floaters on the roll in his early minutes, then dusted off some patented post hooks and dribble drives later. Overall, he was simply too big for the 6-foot-9 Isaiah Stewart, who spent most of his time guarding Vučević with Mason Plumlee sidelined. Jahlil Okafor was no match off the bench either. Vučević finished with 29 points, 16 rebounds and two assists, his 15th double-double in 23 games with the Bulls.
2. The Bulls blew the game open with a 17-3 run between the 2:18 mark of the first quarter and 8:57 mark of the second. The Pistons went just over four minutes without a field goal before an Okafor dunk, a stretch that saw the Bulls extend their lead from 20-16 to 37-19. A 12-4 spurt late in the third quarter made matters tense for a split second, but Detroit never drew within single-digits from quarters two to four.
3. It wasn't just that LaVine (30) and Vučević (29) combined for 59 of the Bulls' 108 points. They did it together, collaborating on multiple crisp screen-and-pop and roll connections to burn Detroit. Five of LaVine's six assists on the night went to Vučević, who despite an off night from 3 (1-for-8) shot 13-for-19 inside the arc. The on-court chemistry of the Bulls' two All-Stars appears to be developing by the game, a good sign for the future if nothing else.
4. This was LaVine's best outing -- and first 30-point game -- since returning from his bout with COVID-19. He tallied 30 points, six assists and made three of his five 3-point attempts (10-for-16 overall, 7-for-7 from the free-throw line). The Pistons had no hope of containing his downhill drives and he rained a handful of off-the-dribble jumpers while seeing his standard diet of double-teams. The Bulls are now 3-0 since his return.
5. The Bulls held their third straight opponent under 100 points, a staggering development for a team that's post-trade-deadline defense was justifiably maligned. Yes, the Pistons played severely shorthanded. But the Bulls holding them to 86 points and just 22-for-45 shooting in the paint is still notable. Especially in the first half, when the Pistons scored just 39 points, the Bulls played with focus and physicality on that end.
6. Coby White continued to find his within the flow of the offense and playing off of LaVine and Vučević. White entered play shooting 40.5 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s since re-entering the starting lineup and added five more tonight, finishing with 21 points and three assists to provide a needed third offensive valve. White is now 15-for-31 from long range during the Bulls' three-game winning streak.
7. Javonte Green's stay in the regular rotation continued, and he delivered what he does best: Hustle and defense. Green's activity in passing lanes and navigating screens stand out on the court, and his minutes once again came at the expense of Denzel Valentine, who logged a DNP after receiving only mop-up minutes in the last two. It's clear that Donovan thinks the Bulls more need Green's defensive intensity than Valentine's shooting at this juncture.
8. Starting for Theis, Thad Young notched 11 points and three dimes. His first bucket came by way of a post-up, but he finished the evening with his first multi-3 game of the season. He shot 2-for-3 from behind the arc, and, uncharacteristically, just 2-for-7 inside of it.
9. Patrick Williams got off to a nice start, swiping a steal and scoring a fastbreak layup early, then dishing a pick-and-pop assist to Vučević. But his impact was muted from there. Despite a loud fourth-quarter slam, he finished with four points on four shot attempts. Forgivable in a resounding victory, but the flashes continue to be as intriguing as they are elusive.
10. For the second season in a row, the Bulls sweep their season series with the Pistons. They've won their last seven contests against Detroit.
Standings update: Neither the Pacers nor the Wizards played tonight, but did play each other on Saturday, when the Wizards pulled out a rather wild overtime win. The Bulls' victory pulls them within 2.5 games of the Pacers for the final play-in spot with four to go (the Pacers have five games left on their slate).
Next up: Back home Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets, who continue to play without James Harden, and on Saturday snapped a four-game losing streak with a comeback victory over the Denver Nuggets.