6 takeaways from the Chicago Bulls’ 113-103 win, including Zach LaVine’s response about locker room disputes – The Denver Post


The Chicago Bulls snapped a four-game losing streak with a 113-103 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

The win improved the team’s record to 12-18, but the Bulls still sit at 11th overall in the Eastern Conference standings.

Here are six takeaways from the game.

1. After a tumultuous day of reports, Bulls stars responded to the pressure.

The Bulls entered Tuesday’s game in Miami under a microscope after a series of reports by The Athletic and NBC Sports Chicago of halftime conflicts and arguments in the locker room during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The reports centered the conflict on star Zach LaVine, who has struggled to find his rhythm this season after signing a $215 million maximum contract in the offseason.

LaVine delivered his response in the form of an explosive night of offense, scoring a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter. He finished with 21 points and seven assists, but the most promising sign for LaVine was his selflessness off the ball and on defense. The guard played with a renewed vigor, dishing out passes and readily cracking a smile throughout the win.

After several long weeks of LaVine visibly carrying the team’s frustration on his shoulders, this change in energy was a welcome sight for Bulls fans.

2. Nikola Vučević led the offensive charge with an explosive night of shooting.

While LaVine’s energy was the forefront focus of the game, it was center Nikola Vučević’s scoring that solidified the win.

Vučević led the Bulls with a season-high 29 points, going 3-for-5 from 3-point range while making most of his damage around the rim against a short-handed Heat side. Two of his three 3-pointers came in the fourth quarter as clinching shots to shore up the lead for the Bulls down the stretch. Most importantly, Vučević’s teammates were clearly scouting for him all night, setting the center up for mismatches to scrape away at the Heat in the paint.

It’s not common for Vučević to be the centerpiece of the Bulls offense, a sacrifice he’s had to make for nearly two years since his trade from Orlando. But he led the Bulls in attempts (17) against the Heat, a welcome change of which he took full advantage.

3. The Bulls defense rallied after questions of effort in Minnesota.

The Bulls defense was equally under pressure after coach Billy Donovan heavily questioned his team’s defensive effort following a blowout loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Although the Bulls defense still shows significant weaknesses — particularly along the 3-point line — the team’s overall intensity improved both on the ball and in rotations against the Heat. The Bulls scored 21 points off 13 turnovers in the game, a critical return to their most successful style of play, which hinges upon disruptive defense.

“That’s what we have to do,” Donovan said. “We’re not the longest team, the most athletic team, the fastest team. We’ve got to cover for each other. I felt like the effort was there to get out there and contest defensively.”

4. Bulls are still susceptible to a second-quarter slip, but made up for it in the third quarter.

Despite taking a 10-point lead out of the first quarter, the Bulls seemed doomed to repeat a familiar pattern when the Heat opened the second quarter on a 17-4 run. The seven-minute slip erased the lead — throwing the Bulls down three points to chase the Heat on a momentum swing — and it cornered on sloppy ball protection, a lingering theme of the last month.

But the Bulls responded differently in Miami, firing up their offense in the third quarter to retake a 15-point lead while outscoring the Heat 36-20. Miami turned the ball over six times in the third quarter while the Bulls only coughed the ball up once themselves. The Bulls scored four 3-pointers in the period, but the meat of the offense came from DeMar DeRozan in the midrange and Vučević in the post.

5. Derrick Jones Jr. injury forced Andre Drummond back into the fray.

Derrick Jones Jr. left the game in the third quarter with a left knee sprain, raising more concerns for the dwindling power forward unit with Javonte Green already sidelined due to a right knee injury. Jones has seen more minutes this season, sometimes operating as a preferred backup power forward over Green depending on the matchup.

Andre Drummond hadn’t played in two straight games and nearly made it to three before Jones’ injury forced Donovan to sub in the backup center in the waning seconds of the third quarter.

Donovan previously said Drummond’s absence from the rotation was due to the necessity for the Bulls to play smaller lineups to keep up with the pace of their opponents. But dropping Drummond from the rotation has limited the Bulls in some ways around the rim, particularly in rebounds where Drummond used to be the secondary leader behind Vučević.

6. The Bulls beat the Heat for the second time this season, but it means less without Jimmy Butler and company.

This is the second win for the Bulls in Miami this season, but it’s a victory that must be taken in context. The Heat were extremely short-handed, with starters Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler and Caleb Martin held out due to injury. Key secondary guard Gabe Vincent was also sidelined for the game.

A win is still a win for the Bulls, especially after dropping previous losses to decimated teams (such as their loss to the Wizards with Bradley Beal sidelined). But the absence of the Heat’s starting core makes it difficult to assess how this Bulls team will fare against top talent at full strength, even when their effort is more focused.



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