Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
The Chicago Bulls overcame a 21-point, first-quarter deficit Saturday night to defeat the Miami Heat 102-97 at the United Center.
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Here are 10 observations:
---Dennis Rodman presented the game ball and drew a loud ovation. That was probably the highlight of the night until the fourth-quarter rally.
---Slow starts have plagued the Bulls of late. But they took matters to a new level this time, missing their first 10 shots and committing three turnovers before Zach Lavine’s running bank shot at the 4 minute, 48 second mark. They trailed 22-1 at the time, drawing boos from the less-than-capacity crowd. Coach Billy Donovan burned two timeouts in this stretch, although one came to challenge an offensive foul on DeMar DeRozan. Fittingly, the Bulls lost the challenge.
---Donovan talked about the slow starts pregame. “Either you’re going to come out of the ring like Mike Tyson or you’re going to come out just kind of bobbing and weaving,” he said. “We’ve got to come out like (Tyson). And we have to be able to sustain it.” Instead, the Bulls got punched in the mouth early again.
"The feeling we all have when we look up and see that, it's definitely frustrating," DeRozan said.
---The full reserve unit of Ayo Dosunmu, Jevon Carter, Torrey Craig, Patrick Williams and Andre Drummond injected some energy into the game. Dosunmu attacked with a full head of steam on a transition layup attempt, drawing a foul. Drummond dunked with authority. Craig and Carter provided defensive stops and quick decisions. The Bulls ripped off an 11-0 run.
---Overall, the Bulls shot 5-for-20 in the first quarter with three turnovers. They scored 14 points, worsening their league-worst, first-quarter scoring average of 25.3 points. But the reserve unit continued its roll, sprinkled in with some starters returning. The Bulls actually pulled to within two points just over midway through the second quarter. But a poor close to the first half pushed their deficit back to 10 points at the break.
---Carter attempted six 3-pointers in eight first-half minutes. Between his quick decision-making, ability to let it fly from beyond the arc (particularly in transition) and his defensive energy, Carter is making a case to play more. But that’s one issue with the roster: It’s guard-heavy, so at whose expense does Carter play more? Coby White has struggled some of late, but he played well early. Dosunmu remains fearless in attacking. And obviously, LaVine and Caruso will log important minutes.
"Just coming in and trying to provide energy, keep the game simple," Carter said. "I just try to stay warm and be ready when my name is called. Just try to make a difference."
---It took until the final minute of the third quarter for one of DeRozan or LaVine to hit double figures. DeRozan arrived via free throws. And while he had attempted nine free throws and LaVine had posted four assists through three quarters, neither had taken more than eight shots. Overall, DeRozan shot 6-for-12 for 23 points, while LaVine shot 5-for-10 for 13 points. To LaVine’s credit, he took what the defense gave him and finished with eight rebounds and six assists while playing competitive defense.
"Just trying to do everything else," LaVine said. "They were pretty much taking away pick-and-rolls, blitzing it and rotating. The game was slow too. I was able to create, rebound and try to find my opportunities in the third and fourth quarters, which I was able to. But just try to do everything I could to help us get a win."
---The Bulls shot 44.4 percent overall. The Heat played plenty of zone, daring the Bulls to beat them from outside. The Bulls attempted a season-high 45 3-pointers, making 16. And their commitment to this is what ultimately propelled their comeback. In fact, they tied the game for the first time on a DeRozan 3-pointer with 1:39 left. And they took their first lead of the night on a Caruso 3-pointer with 51.8 left.
"We've been turning down open shots, especially looking at film," DeRozan said. "We put trust in one another making the right play. If somebody has an open shot, just take it."
---DeRozan scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth, including the go-ahead midrange jumper with 21.9 seconds left. Like LaVine, he let the game come to him. But he exerted his will in the final quarter.
"It was a grind-it-out game," LaVine said. "We've been playing hard but playing from behind the last three or four games. To finally come up with one was good."
---This being the Bulls' current state, even a victory created a stir. Social media erupted over a video showing LaVine brushing past a team's public relations official who was set to feature him in the postgame walkoff interview that's broadcast throughout the arena. Instead, when LaVine made his quick exit to the locker room, DeRozan filled the role.
"It was just a miscommunication for us and our PR team. We're all fine. I'm not ticked at all. I'm happy we got a win," LaVine said. "We play these guys in a couple days. You don't want to just sit around and celebrate. I'd rather celebrate in the locker room."
The move was out of character for LaVine, who is typically extremely accommodating with the media and a professional representative of the franchise. And set against the backdrop of his recent openness to being moved, it's another example of how scrutinized every move he makes will be, particularly since the move didn't register well with some important figures within the organization.