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Drummond, Vucevic form potent 1-2 punch in blowout of Spurs

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Even Andre Drummond can’t believe it.

Eleven seasons in the NBA and his stealth trick of hanging back in the backcourt to steal an outlet pass still hasn’t landed on scouting reports.

“You can check the tapes. I’ve done that religiously,” Drummond said, laughing. “It’s something that I’m good at. I read the game. I know who has the ball and who is going to throw a lazy pass. So I just prepare myself for it.”

It’s not the only thing for which Drummond prepares himself. Prominently back in Billy Donovan’s rotation for the third straight game, Drummond posted his second double-double in that span, finishing with a season-high 21 points and 15 rebounds in the Chicago Bulls’ 128-104 blowout victory over the San Antonio Spurs. He made all nine field-goal attempts.

“It says a lot about him. It just shows how truly professional he is,” Nikola Vucevic said. “When you’re not playing in the rotation, sometimes it’s hard to stay focused and stay locked in. He’s been doing that this whole season, working before and after practice, extra work just to make sure to stay in shape. He played a huge role for us.”

Drummond’s three steals also were reflective of a defensive impact that spread to a second unit that flipped the game in the third quarter. Big plays from Coby White and Derrick Jones Jr. defensively and Goran Dragic’s consistent pace-pushing led to Donovan rolling with the second unit longer than usual, allowing starters to keep low minutes on the front end of a back-to-back set of games.

Not that Vucevic didn’t take advantage of his 24 minutes. He stuffed the box score with 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

“I think it makes it difficult for the other team because you have to adjust every time either one of us is on the floor. So it makes it difficult for them to really set their defense,” Drummond said. “Vooch is able to pop and roll. So they have to prepare for that. For myself, I’m able to get our guards open so they can come downhill at their bigs or hit me in the pocket and I can either pass or shoot it. It makes it tough for other teams to prepare for us.”

Donovan said afterward that for certain matchups, he still won’t shelve his small-ball look featuring Derrick Jones Jr. at center. But Drummond is playing too well not to play consistent minutes.

That is, if he’s not dealt before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

Drummond consistently has said he focuses on what he can control. And that’s bringing the effort and intensity that he brought to Monday’s victory.

“I’m grateful and thankful to play this game. You never know when it can be taken from you. I never take this game lightly. I appreciate every moment I’m on that floor,” Drummond said. “When I get that chance, I try to play as hard as I can and give it all I have.”

As well as Drummond played offensively, Donovan pointed to his defense first.

“We were really having a hard time with them coming downhill at us. And his ability to move his feet, his size at the rim, his rim protection, I think he just played inside of his lane,” Donovan said. “He was a presence in pick-and-roll. He was a presence at the rim shotblocking. And then he was defensive rebounding.

“Offensively, I think he kept it really simple. He was hard diving to the basket. We found him on some rolls. And he got on the offensive glass. When he does those things, it really helps our team and changes our team.”

Indeed, his skill set is different than that of Vucevic’s.

“Andre is going to do it with a lot of offensive rebounding and hard rolls to the rim. There are times he catches it in the pocket and he’s close to the rim and we find him on lobs,” Donovan said. “Vooch is doing it on jumpshots, floaters, some post-ups. When those two guys are giving us what they give us, that’s a huge boost for our team.”

Vucevic and Drummond not only complement each other, they compliment each other. They’ve faced each other multiple times over the years and battled in practice scrimmages this season.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Vucevic said.

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