Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
INDIANAPOLIS --- The Chicago Bulls improved to 2-2 with a 112-105 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Here are 10 observations from the victory:
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---The Bulls are now 17-9 when Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine each score 20 or more points in the same game. Unlike the overtime victory over Toronto, in which DeRozan played hero ball offensively and Alex Caruso used his defensive magic, this victory had the feel of more staying power. Though the Bulls attempted a season-low 17 3-pointers, coach Billy Donovan said he saw improvements in what he wants to see stylistically from the Bulls’ offense---quick decisions, getting downhill and more paint attacks.
“I think we tried to play to that identity for the whole game,” Donovan said. “In the last six to eight minutes, you’re going to start really looking at matchups. But I thought we tried to move the ball.”
---Vucevic finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and three assists on 10-for-19 shooting and could’ve scored more if he hadn’t uncharacteristically missed some close-in looks.
“My teammates did a really good job of trying to find me,” Vucevic said.
---Donovan felt the game was the best example to date on the young season of quick decision-making and equal-opportunity offense.
“There’s enough for everybody to eat,” Donovan said.
---The Bulls only assisted on 19 of 40 field goals but that mostly was a result of missed shots after a several-pass possession.
“I didn’t feel like the ball stuck. Even if there was a possession where there wasn’t a lot of passes, it was decisive. The minute we start holding the ball and start sizing guys up, the floor shrinks, everybody is in help and it’s really hard to play like that,” Donovan said. “You can have possessions like that but can’t maintain it.”
DeRozan took 19 shots and LaVine finished with 17. The Bulls also repeatedly attacked the basket down the stretch, with DeRozan taking advantage of a matchup with Tyrese Haliburton to either score of drive and dish to Vucevic for a layup. LaVine also had a driving layup in this stretch.
“We were more patient reading what they were doing defensively,” Vucevic said. “We attacked certain matchups and attacked the paint. We didn’t shoot the ball extremely well but we stuck with it and kept attacking the paint. Now it’s: Are we going to do it consistently?”
---The Bulls continue to produce on the offensive glass, a weakness last season. They finished with 10 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points. Vucevic did the most damage, with Andre Drummond and Torrey Craig chipping in as well. Before the game, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who coached Craig, called him “an elite offensive rebounder.” Craig took a blow to his face and eye from Bennedict Mathurin and wore an ice pack down the stretch of the extremely physical game, which also featured a minor skirmish between Zach LaVine and several Pacers when they trapped LaVine physically late. LaVine drew a technical foul.
---Coby White recorded a steal and sank a 3-pointer just 19 seconds after tipoff after not scoring last game. He also briefly left the game and bench area in the third quarter after taking a strong blow from Aaron Nesmith on a drive while trying to take a charge. White had taken a charge earlier in the game and has played well defensively in the early going of this season.
---Donovan played Jevon Carter a season-high 18 minutes and Carter responded with his first double-digit scoring output of the young season. He also teamed with Ayo Dosunmu to make a huge defensive play early in the fourth. First, Dosunmu blocked Myles Turner as he rose for an apparent dunk. After Turner gathered the loose ball, Carter stripped him on his way up for his next attempt, leading to a LaVine layup in transition.
---Donovan kept Patrick Williams on longer for his first rotational stint. After going scoreless last game and barely playing in the fourth quarter of the last two games, Williams played the first 8 minutes, 55 seconds. He packed plenty into that first stint. The good? Two strong drives, including one make, with two rebounds, a steal and a block. The bad? Gave up an offensive rebound to Obi Toppin, had a shot blocked and allowed two straight line drives, although one came when he slipped on a wet spot.
Williams finished with nine points and four rebounds in 22 minutes. Alex Caruso closed again.
“I thought he played well. His energy was much better. He was aggressive. He tried to get downhill. He was active on the glass,” Donovan said. “As the game was unfolding, probably right now I’m closing with Alex experience-wise.”
---Donovan went back to using DeRozan as the starter “staggered” to play with the second unit. He has done it now twice with LaVine and twice with DeRozan. Donovan said he may continue alternating throughout the upcoming games.
---DeRozan and Craig shared a laugh following the morning shootaround when DeRozan lightheartedly tried to recreate the one-legged, game-winning 3-pointer he sank over Craig on 2021 New Year’s Eve in this building. Craig had hounded DeRozan much of the game and DeRozan shot 7-for-23 before his heroics. “What’d you shoot that game?” Craig asked. “We won,” DeRozan countered with a smile.