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10 observations: Bulls beat Nuggets in home preseason opener

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The Chicago Bulls defeated the Denver Nuggets 133-124 in double overtime at the United Center on Thursday night in the home preseason opener.

Here are 10 observations from the victory:

---Billy Donovan started Coby White, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic for the second straight game. Donovan is still working through his rotation. For instance, he took LaVine off early along with Williams this time to stagger LaVine for some minutes against second-unit players. He used Jevon Carter with White some in the first quarter. And he started Ayo Dosunmu for White in the second half. But White and Williams starting the first two games is notable.

---Donovan has used the phrase “paint attacks” so often that he could get an endorsement deal with Glidden or Behr. The Bulls obliged early and often, with 14 of the first 16 points coming in the restricted area. This ultimately led to open 3-pointers off kickouts. And through two games, the Bulls are showing positive signs of improving this area.

---LaVine moved into attack mode early. Eight of his first 10 points came inside the restricted area. This included a putback of his own missed breakaway layup and a dunk off a 2-on-0 fast break with DeRozan. On that play, DeRozan and LaVine traded passes as they streaked downcourt before LaVine decided to dunk.

---This unselfishness extended to perimeter halfcourt passing as well. Torrey Craig passed a good look on a corner 3-pointer to swing it to Carter for an even better 3-point look. Carter buried the shot. This is the type of ball movement Donovan has preached all training camp.

---Dosunmu took advantage of his second-half start, packing plenty into his first rotational turn of 7 minutes, 29 seconds. That included three offensive rebounds, good defensive energy and a nifty assist for a LaVine layup.

---Nikola Jokic remains good at the basketball thing. The two-time most valuable player posted 17 points, six rebounds and four assists into his 18 first-half minutes, outplaying good friend Nikola Vucevic, who got the better of him the last time they met in Denver during last season. Vucevic started slowly but closed the first half with two strong moves over Jokic.

---Unlike the Nuggets, who didn’t play Jokic, Jamal Murray and other starters in the second half, the Bulls played their starters for the first 6 or 7 minutes of the second half. DeRozan and LaVine finished with 19 and 17 points, respectively. And DeRozan’s game featured something familiar with eight trips to the free-throw line---he made all eight---and something different with four 3-point attempts.

---For the second straight game, the Bulls attempted at least 30 3-pointers, which is a low bar to clear but one they set as the only team in the NBA not to attempt at least that many per game last season. Alex Caruso shot 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Caruso said during the Bulls’ week in Nashville that the coaches have asked him to be more “selfish” this season, as in not passing up open shots.

---That’s five rebounds in 41 minutes for Patrick Williams through two games. Management and the coaching staff have placed the onus on Williams to be more aggressive on the glass. Thus far, it hasn’t translated. Williams had a forgettable night overall, finishing with two points and just four shots in 14 minutes.

---The Bulls offered a mixed bag defensively. They turned defense into offense, scoring 30 points off 28 turnovers. They also defended without fouling, not sending the Nuggets to the free-throw line until the second half. And they controlled the glass; the Nuggets didn't have any second-chance points. But they allowed 50 percent shooting to, obviously, the defending NBA champions. And Donovan called two timeouts simply to clean up defensive mistakes.

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