The Chicago Bulls have managed back-to-back wins in a time where they couldn’t accept anything less, and the latest of those two came on the back of a triple-double performance from Nikola Vucevic.
With five games remaining, the team still has a puncher’s chance at playoffs.
Chicago is 28-39, three games back of the 10th-seed Indiana Pacers.
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A Big Night for the Big Man
The Boston Celtics had no answer for Nikola Vucevic on Saturday, with head coach Brad Stevens going as far as to trying Tacko Fall on him in the second half.
Chicago’s All-Star big man finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and a block. He’s the first Bulls player to post a triple-double since Jimmy Butler did it back in April of 2017.
As is custom with a performance of this caliber, Vucevic was everywhere and did a little bit of everything.
And as has become the expectation for a player of his statute, the two-time All-Star credited his teammates when speaking with reporters (via NBC Sports) after the game:
They were really being aggressive double-teaming the post. They did a lot of switching also on the pick-and-rolls if I was rolling. They had a lot of different coverages and we were able to exploit that a little bit. And guys were doing a good job of getting into open spaces and knocking down shots. The way I play, I always try to make the best read I can whether it’s me attacking and scoring or making the right pass. That’s what I take a lot of pride in doing.
His IQ was on full display early, with five of his eventual 10 total assists coming in the first quarter. Things have become easier for both Vucevic and the Bulls as they get more games under the belt together.
His growing chemistry with his new teammates is largely to credit for what will go down as a career night.
Zach LaVine commented on it, as well as Vucevic’s performance after the game:
Man, he’s so much help. It’s a very, very assertive big man that can do it all. And our chemistry is getting better and better.
Three of the big man’s assists went to LaVine, good for seven of his 25 points in the win. Per NBA.com’s Passes Tracking, Vucevic only assisted him seven times in their previous 11 games together.
Unsurprisingly, he remains optimistic about his fit next to the Bulls’ other All-Star:
We’re really excited to be playing together and hopefully it gets us to the play-in game. We just talked about how we wanted to finish the season strong and play well and do what we can. It’s been great. I think he and I fit well together. There have been signs of that already where it shows how we can be efficient. And I think we’re just going to continue to grow as a duo.
Chicago’s now 5-7 when both LaVine and Vucevic play this season. If nothing else, the remaining slate of games will provide the two stars an opportunity to continue building their rapport.
Because next season won’t allow the same lenience down the stretch. The pressure will be on both All-Stars and the Chicago Bulls alike to return to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
After their win over the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls improve to 28-39.
That’s good for the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference, and three games back of the 10th seed Indiana Pacers.
Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at less than one percent.
Elsewhere, Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the 11th most difficult in the entire NBA.
Action Network gives them just a 2.9 percent chance to land in the 10th seed, and punch their ticket to playoffs, as well as a 71 percent chance to finish 11th, and a 25.9 percent chance to finish 12th.
So the odds are stacked against the Chicago Bulls, who are 4-6 in their last 10.
Five games to go.