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5 observations: Bulls reserves star in victory over Wizards

DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic rest with play-in seed, homecourt secured

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

WASHINGTON --- The Chicago Bulls rested DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso Friday night in a 129-127 victory over the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena.

In honor of load management as the Bulls have clinched the ninth seed and a home play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks, here are five observations, not 10:

---If you’re looking for any meaning from this one, Javonte Green started at center in a small-ball lineup. Why is this significant? Coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls have been able to dabble in the double-big lineup of Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond. But with injuries to Patrick Williams and Torrey Craig, the Bulls have very little experience playing the small-ball lineups that Donovan has historically preferred.

Alas, the experiment lasted one half. Adama Sanogo started the second half for Torrey Craig, pushing Green to power forward.

But Green, who set a career-high for scoring in a half with 20 first-half points, continued to make his undeniable impact since signing from the G League. He scored 24 points in 23 minutes despite not playing down the stretch.

“I really felt like the transition would be a relatively smooth one because he has played with these guys and he knows these guys,” Donovan said. “Being comfortable coming into the building and knowing everybody is big. The biggest thing was the limited amount of time that he had the opportunity to play as he rehabbed and recovered from his knee (injury).

“To me, he doesn’t look like he has lost any athleticism. And the one thing I’ve always loved about him is he’s high motor and high energy and you know what you’re going to get every single night from him. He’s not always going to be perfect. But he’s going to make something happen, whether it’s on the glass, getting out in transition, cutting. I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t seen him in awhile. I didn’t know where he was at physically. He’s been a huge bright spot for us and made a big, big impact on our group.”

---The decision to rest the core players proved an easy one with the back-to-back set of games. Donovan said he’d talk to each of DeRozan, Vucevic and Caruso, as well as the medical staff, to determine if they play in Sunday’s regular-season finale at the New York Knicks.

“My feeling is they’re going to want to play,” Donovan said. “When you talk about a guy’s rhythm, there’s a sensitivity to those guys to what they need. And that’s the conversation that needs to take place.”

Why did Coby White play? Donovan is big on player input and White has said he wants to keep some sort of rhythm, although he only logged 27 minutes. He’s also younger than the veterans who sat. White finished with 20 points.

As for DeRozan, he sported a Sade concert T-shirt on the bench.

---As for the injured players in Drummond and Ayo Dosunmu, both said they’re improving. Drummond is even hoping to play Sunday, although getting healthy for the play-in game is the priority.

---Given the Wizards entered with just 15 victories and also rested or had several important players injured or sick, it’s hard to read too much into individual statistics for some seldom-used players. But they still count.

Sanogo posted his first NBA double-double with 22 points and 20 rebounds, Henri Drell sank his first NBA 3-pointer and followed with a strong second-half sequence of a spectacular block and steal and Jevon Carter finished with 20 points and a career-high-tying 12 assists in a rare substantial run for the veteran guard.

"I've been waiting for this all year, so to be able to do it now feels great," Sanogo said. "This is like a dream come true for me."

Sanogo said he last had a 20-20 game in the G League.

"I don't what to say," Sanogo said. "I'm just happy now."

Drummond, his fellow University of Connecticut product, kept coaching Sanogo up on the sidelines, which the rookie said "felt great."

Similarly, Drell called his opportunity "incredible."

"I still can't believe it," Drell said. "I cannot even remember the game, to be honest. I was that excited. I just love to see us succeed."

As for his highlight-reel block, Drell offered a spectacular answer.

"I always jump. I’ll tell you that. I’ve gotten posterized in my life---badly. But I still jump and I promise you I’ll keep jumping," he said. "I’m from Estonia. Even if I’ll be on ESPN, nobody will know me. So I will still jump. And I was trying to time that one. And it went right."

Dalen Terry also battled foul trouble to post career-highs of 17 points and eight assists. Terry placed the exclamation point on the victory with a thunderous dunk in traffic in the final minute, making the Bulls; bench go wild.

---With the victory, the Bulls have a chance to match last season’s 40-42 record with a victory on Sunday in New York. Last season, the Bulls finished 10th and they’ll finish ninth this season. Continuity remains king.

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