MINNEAPOLIS — Patrick Williams said he didn’t know he had scored a career-high 35 points until after the Chicago Bulls’ regular-season-concluding victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves ended.
Given that Williams’ previous career-high stood at 24 points, that’s either a sign of a player lost in the game or so team-oriented that individual statistics don’t immediately resonate. In fact, Williams spent the opening portion of his postgame media session crediting his teammates.
“I just play,” Williams said.
Whatever the case, the Bulls can benefit from Williams being if not selfish, at least as aggressive as he was against the Timberwolves.
This doesn’t necessarily taking 21 shots and traveling to the free-throw line 14 times, which he did on Sunday and which he won’t do when DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine return to the lineup. Both rested.
“When he’s out there with DeMar and Zach and even [Nikola Vučević], he’s got to pick those spots to be aggressive. And there are opportunities for him to do that,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Certainly, I was running a lot of things at him to try to get him to be like that. He also took it upon himself to do some of the things he did.”
Indeed, Williams attacked the rim consistently, sank three of four 3-pointers and generally looked like a player oozing with confidence.
Now, with a first-round series against the Bucks looming, that needs to continue.
“They’ve been giving that message since last year,” Williams said. “It’s on me. I feel confident enough to do it. I’ve proven to myself not only this game but previous games and even some last season that when I am aggressive, I am helping this team.
“I want to win. Anything I can do to help the team win. And from what I hear from the coaching staff and teammates the last two years is when I’m aggressive, I’m helping the team win.”
Williams did concede he was pleased with his ability not to let mistakes snowball and to push through in-game fatigue. He logged 41 minutes, which seems like good practice for someone about to be matched against an NBA most valuable player in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Donovan has been imploring Williams to play consistently with aggressiveness. Even if Williams doesn’t attempt as many shots as he did on Sunday, just the threat of him being a plus-player on the offensive side presents one more player for defenses to monitor.
“I kept telling him, ‘Keep going.’ I wanted to see him shoot 30 times tonight,” LaVine said with a smile. “Obviously, he’s not going to be able to shoot that many times, but we need him to play like that.
“Going forward, I think him having a game like this at the end of the year, not just showing himself but everyone on the team that he’s capable of being that type of player. And he is that guy. It’s going to be great for him and his confidence.”