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10 observations: Bulls down Rockets for 3rd straight victory

Coby White's 30 points and strong overall game from Zach LaVine lifts them in overtime

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls won their third straight game Wednesday night with a 124-119 home victory over the Houston Rockets in overtime.

"The vibe is great," Coby White said. "It's been great. We're in this together, win or lose. We're going to continue to be together."

Added Zach LaVine: "We're competing and sharing the ball."

Here are 10 observations:

---This was the obvious trend after both players played all of Monday’s overtime session in Charlotte to surpass their alleged minutes restriction that night, but coach Billy Donovan said pregame that the minutes restrictions for both Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic has been lifted. Both returned to the starting lineup.

---Their return pushed Patrick Williams back to a reserve role as Donovan opted for Alex Caruso. Williams started 27 of the Bulls’ first 37 games before Wednesday. He had averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 29.7 minutes as a starter and 7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 20.9 minutes as a reserve. Against the Rockets, Williams finished with five points in 29 minutes.

"Alex has been really, really good with that group," Donovan said. "We play him for a short stretch and then bring Patrick right in and have Alex back in to close the quarter."

---DeMar DeRozan scored the Bulls’ first eight points, including two 3-pointers, to rally them from a slow start. Following one, he good-naturedly exchanged words with Rockets coach Ime Udoka, who served as an assistant coach in San Antonio when DeRozan played for the Spurs. “I think he's gonna be able to play for a long time,” Udoka said. “The way he plays, the pace he plays and kind of gets to where he wants to – his spots, he’s a tremendous scorer. He’s been that for a long time. And he's only going to get, I think, more efficient as he gets older.”

----LaVine struggled with his finishing before his 17-game absence to right foot inflammation. It’s an area LaVine has excelled in over recent seasons and an area he has talked about needing to return to form. It didn’t happen early. LaVine missed three first-quarter drives at the rim, scoring only on a 3-pointer.

"My offense will come," LaVine said. "Just build it back up the next couple games and I'll be where I want to be at."

---LaVine’s early finishing woes didn’t prevent him from having an extremely impactful first half. LaVine posted nine points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals before halftime, continuing the defensive focus and tenacity he has displayed since his return. Donovan praised LaVine’s defensive play pregame. And then LaVine scored on consecutive drives in the third quarter to officially put his slow start behind him. LaVine played his best all-around game of the season, finishing with 25 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

"Aggressive, decisive, making the right play off his aggressiveness, getting downhill," White said of LaVine. "When he's aggressive first, that's how we want him to be. Big-time players make big-time plays."

---Coby White posted his third straight 20-point game with LaVine back and fourth overall. So much for questions about whether or not White could remain aggressive with LaVine back. White’s 30 points also marked his 17th 20-point game, tying his career-high total from 2020-21 in just the 39th game of the season.

"I've known Coby for six years," LaVine said. "The way he's playing right now, the growth in his game, is incredible. I want to keep him in that rhythm obviously when I'm on the court. I have a sense of finding him on the break. Just pitch the ball to him because he's hot right now. That's my guy. We've been through a lot in our time in Chicago."

---Donovan spent several minutes following the morning shootaround talking to guard Jevon Carter, who then proceeded to draw his first “DNP-CD” designation of the season. (Did Not Play---Coach’s Decision) Donovan returned to a nine-player rotation, and Dalen Terry only logged 6 minutes. Donovan said the Rockets' size contributed to his decision to play Terry over Carter.

---For the second straight game, the Bulls’ offense completely fizzled down the stretch of regulation. This time, they blew a 16-point, fourth-quarter lead and failed to score the final 4:15. For the second straight game, DeRozan, who was 5-for-19 in regulation, missed a isolation jumper on the final offensive possession of regulation.

"The regulation was on me because watching them on film, they've got a real history of running and trapping the ball," Donovan said. "I was concerned about running actions and getting too many people in too tight a space and there being traps. I created the space that way on purpose."

--But LaVine scored on a traditional three-point play and hit one of the Bulls’ season-high 19 3-pointers followed by a White 3-pointer for a 9-0 run in overtime that won the game. The Bulls finished with 30 assists and placed five scorers in double figures. LaVine scored six points in 24 seconds.

"I just attacked quick because the defense wasn't set," LaVine said. "The next time down, the guys' feet got behind the 3-point line so I was just looking for opportunity. We were a little stuck. It was a turning point where you either make something or the game goes sour."

---Alperen Sengun missed his first five shots and didn’t score in the first half. But he finished with 25 points, above his team-leading average of 21.5 points. The Bulls crowded Sengun on most every catch defensively, and he also missed some shots he normally makes. The Rockets, who also played without Dillon Brooks and Tari Eason, kept going to Sengun down the stretch.

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