Early in the Chicago Bulls’ 113-99 victory over the Miami Heat Saturday night, which, coupled with losses by the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards, nudged the Bulls 1 ½ games ahead in the 10th seed, Patrick Beverley made two significant hustle plays on the same possession.
First, Beverley sprawled full-out to save a loose ball from going out-of-bounds. Then, he drew a foul from Tyler Herro after rising high for an offensive rebound.
The United Center roared its approval.
“It’s electrifying, especially at home. It gets the crowd going,” DeMar DeRozan said of the sequence. “You gotta feed off that when you see a guy sacrificing himself for big plays and to save a possession. It carries over from there.”
But lest one think Beverley is merely a hustle guy and defensive-minded player, how does a season-high five 3-pointers sound?
With the Heat sending consistent traps at DeRozan and Zach LaVIne, Beverley scored 17 points. That included one stretch of 11 straight second-quarter points in which Beverley egged on the crowd, which, again, roared its approval.
“Just having fun, getting lost in basketball. Just like you guys do when you’re up at night, writing a story. You got your little headphones on. You catch the vibe and get lost in your craft,” Beverley humorously said, referencing reporters. “I’m fortunate to play with DeMar and Zach. No one person can guard them so you gotta take away something and I guess it’s PatBev. I like it that way.”
Beverley oozes confidence and leadership. And his impact has been undeniable since the hometown product joined the Bulls, who are 7-4 since his arrival.
“Should be 9-2,” Beverley said. “I think the team that really beat us is Phoenix---and Toronto. We got to be better.”
Earlier, when asked about the Heat trimming the Bulls’ 27-point lead to 3 points just over midway through the fourth quarter, Beverley flashed his leadership skills again.
“Any adversity is good,” he said. “It will help us throughout the playoffs.”
Notice Beverley’s verb tense.
Beverley is averaging 6.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range since coming to the Bulls. But his impact moves far beyond box scores and into the locker room.
“I just love his presence, his competitiveness,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The way he comes in on a back-to-back telling guys, ‘We got to be ready to play.’ I love his message and disposition and the way he is every day. He has a great motor, great enthusiasm, loves the game and loves competing. I love being around him.
“He’s a really genuine guy, a straight-up guy. I just love his passion. It has helped our team. I don’t know if it’s changed our team.”
DeRozan said it has.
“A different type of leadership,” DeRozan said. “Consistent voice. He has played with some great players. Look at the list. He has played with Hall of Fame players who know how to play the game. He’s who he is for a reason. He earned that reputation of being tough and vocal.”
Beverley downplayed his impact.
“Nothing has changed. I just got a Coach that believes in me and understands what I bring to the game,” he said. “I’m fortunate to play under a coach like Billy. When you have a coach like that who believes in you, you don’t want to let him down. I’m having fun out there.”
The Bulls tied their season-high with 34 assists and shot 56.2 percent, including 50 percent on 34 3-point attempts. Given that they prevailed in double overtime on Friday against Minnesota with players logging heavy minutes, the way the Bulls started with 33 first-quarter points and a double-digit lead was notable.
Even more notable was not blinking in the face of adversity when the Heat made its inevitable run. The Bulls placed six players in double figures, with DeRozan tying his season-high of 10 assists. Coby White and Patrick Williams hit big fourth-quarter shots.
It was a team win on a night the Bulls lost Alex Caruso to yet another injury, a re-aggravation of his mid-left foot sprain.
“This was a professional win,” Beverley said. “We came in understanding this was a must-need win after a double OT game. We didn’t want to come out in mud. We wanted to throw the first punch. We did. They responded, just like any good team would respond. Our first punch was real heavy, so we were able to withstand their punches.”
However, Beverley couldn’t withstand one blow---an inadvertent poke in the eye from teammate Nikola Vucevic. That forced Donovan to close with Williams over Beverley.
“I think Vooch tried to pay me back for Detroit,” Beverley said, humorously referencing the time Vucevic took offense to Beverley pointing out a blown defensive coverage between the two players. “I guess we’re even now.”
The Bulls aren’t even since Beverley joined them. They’ve been a winning team.
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