Alex Caruso

Bulls' Alex Caruso draws 1st start, continues hot shooting

Defensive-minded guard is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range

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The Chicago Bulls held internal conversations on whether or not to start Alex Caruso before the defensive ace did for the first time on Friday night.

Coach Billy Donovan confirmed that following Friday's loss to the Orlando Magic, saying Caruso's two-game absence with a sprained toe merely delayed the inevitable.

And Donovan added that Caruso will start for the foreseeable future. Now it's just a matter of figuring out the rotation behind their main sparkplug.

"It does put you in a different situation because you’re not playing him for almost 12 straight minutes. I have to take a look at that combination of guys and what that looks like," Donovan said. "You’re taking a guy that’s your energy guy and he’s going 12 minutes without playing. I have to manage his minutes."

Indeed, Caruso sat from the 6 minute, 12 second mark of the first quarter to the 7:11 mark of the second because the Bulls are so mindful of keeping him healthy. Caruso logged 23 minutes in his first start, leaving the bench area at one point to get his pinky finger looked at by the training staff.

"It’s just a pinky. It’s been messed up for years," Caruso said. "And it just got hit a couple times so it just hurts."

It's unfortunate for the Bulls that Caruso can't play 48 minutes. Between his first team All-Defense honors from last season plus his newfound hot shooting from 3-point range, he has been the team's most impactful player.

Caruso sank three 3-pointers in his first rotational turn.

"I got some open shots early. DeMar (DeRozan) and Zach (LaVine) got downhill. They trust me and when they see me open, they do a good job of hitting me on target.  And then it’s just trusting the work," Caruso said. "Other than that, I was back to my small ball 4 role, trying to make life hard for Paolo (Banchero). He’s a really strong, athletic guy. Overall, I thought the start was pretty good."

Caruso later sank a massive 3-pointer with 26.1 seconds left to nudge the Bulls ahead by one point.

"Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) kind of saved it out of bounds and threw it to Coby (White). And I just knew everybody was pretty flat on the court," Caruso said. "Coby got it and I was ready to shoot. Once I caught it and faced the basket, there was nobody on me. It was a wide-open shot. Gotta shoot it."

Caruso finished with 18 points, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. He's now shooting a career-high 50 percent from beyond the arc.

"This is probably the most unattached to results that I’ve been in my life basketball-wise as far as shots going in or out. And that’s probably why I’m making most of them. There’s a part of me that doesn’t care," Caruso said. "If I’m open, I shoot it. I’m playing basketball, competing to win. If it’s the right shot, take it. Trust the work. I worked really hard this summer and this preseason and during the season. There’s no reason not to shoot them."

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