Bulls Insider

10 observations: Bulls down Heat as Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, Nikola Vucevic come up huge

Alex Caruso exits early after re-aggravating ankle injury

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

MIAMI --- The Chicago Bulls opened their two-game mini-series against the Miami Heat with a 124-116 victory at Kaseya Center Thursday night.

Here are 10 observations:

---Alex Caruso returned from his two-game absence with a sprained left ankle and made two 3-pointers as part of one of the best starts of the season by the Bulls. But Caruso exited at the 7 minute, 8 second mark after stepping on Nikola Vucevic's foot and crashing to the floor, grimacing as he entered the timeout huddle. Caruso retreated to the locker room with a member of the training staff.

---The Bulls sank 8 of their first 12 shots and assisted on seven of the made field goals, which included five 3-pointers, to take a 21-5 lead. What’s significant about that is the Heat led the Bulls 22-1 on Nov. 18 at the United Center, a game the Bulls actually rallied to win. The Bulls extended their lead to 33-8 even as Caruso was getting checked out in the locker room.

---At the conclusion of the first quarter, the Bulls’ public and media relations staff listed Caruso questionable to return with a re-aggravation of the left ankle injury. By halftime, the PR staff updated that news to Caruso not returning. It’s a brutal loss for the Bulls, who obviously received a brief boost from having him back.

Caruso walked without a limp in the postgame locker room.

"To what level or degree, I don't know," coach Billy Donovan said. "It's the same spot."

Just listen to how Donovan spoke of Caruso in his pregame comments, where he called him “critical” to the Bulls’ culture.

“I’ve talked a lot about things that impact winning. . . . Alex is really, really smart, really, really tough, he’s really competitive. He’s a great team guy in the locker room. To me I would just put the word winner around him,” Donovan said. “I love guys like that because those guys, you know what you’re getting every single night, and those guys have an ability to impact the game. He’s one of those guys that you’re not going to look down at the box score and see 25 points every night. There’s going to be a lot of things that don’t show up in a stat sheet about him fighting a guy off of a post-up and being in a help position. There’s a lot you cannot measure on the things he does.”

And now it’s a wait-and-see on how long this Caruso absence lasts.

---Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer sat courtside together. When Ayo Dosunmu hustled to the floor to tie up a loose ball for a jump ball, Noah stood and applauded. Later, Dosunmu held up the "3" sign as Noah smiled after Dosunmu hit a huge 3-pointer late.

"That's my guy," Dosunmu said of Noah. "He's been helping me throughout the whole process from when I was a rookie. I got nothing but love for him. He was talking to me the whole game, giving me little pointers. So that was just showing love to him."

---For the second time this season, DeMar DeRozan executed a 360-degree spin pass. DeRozan first performed the feat at Milwaukee and followed it Thursday night with an acrobatic feed to Coby White for a 3-pointer. White extended his franchise record to 13 games with at least three 3-pointers.

---By halftime, the Heat had cut the deficit to 60-56. The Bulls’ ball movement dried up and most possessions were of the one-and-done variety. After posting 11 first-quarter assists, the Bulls only managed six in the second quarter.

---With Caruso out, Dosunmu started the second half. He immediately helped push the Bulls’ advantage back to double digits by attacking in transition and finding Nikola Vucevic on three baskets. After shooting 5-for-18 over his last three games, Dosunmu shot the ball well on Thursday. He finished with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting.

"The shooting efficiency stands out, but I thought he was really good defensively and made good decisions when he got in the paint kicking it out," Donovan said. "He was coming up the floor and there was constant pressure on the basket and on the rim and that opened things up for him and he was able to make plays from there."

---Vucevic had a huge third quarter, scoring 15 of his 24 points. Dosunmu and White both did well in recognizing when Vucevic either had a favorable matchup or sealed his defender. Until he sank a 3-pointer, Vucevic’s longest field-goal attempt in the third quarter was 6 feet. He lived in the paint.

"I really respect Vooch on this: A lot of times you can have post-up plays for him and he'd rather get it in the flow of the offense," Donovan said. "I think our team has done a better job of recognizing situations for him and that makes the game a little bit easier."

Vucevic also finished with 12 rebounds and seven assists.

---The Bulls tied their season-high with 32 assists and only had five turnovers. Almost remarkably, White and Dosunmu had none.

---White had his first double-double of the season with 20 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. His decision-making in pick-and-roll continues to impress.

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