The Chicago Bulls‘ surprise 121-112 victory over the Brooklyn Nets was, in many ways, akin to the story of David versus Goliath with Brooklyn representing the fabled giant while the Bulls played the part of the unassuming eventual conqueror.
Chicago matched Brooklyn with three players scoring at least 20 points but they also had three other players score in double figures compared to one for the Nets.
They got 65 points out of their big three of DeMar Derozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.
Their performance drew encouraging reviews from the very opponent they just downed in Nets superstar Kevin Durant. The outspoken Durant racked up 44 points on an uber-efficient 68.2% shooting but it wasn’t enough and, as he explained, the thing that put the Bulls over the top wasn’t necessarily his star counterparts on the Bulls.
Kevin Durant: Bulls Have ‘Three Elite Scorers’
“Against this team, when you got three elite scorers from all angles of the floor, you got to do your work early and you got to just be there on the catch,” Durant said in his postgame availability. “I think we definitely put our foot on the gas here in spurts and tried to make it a game…But they made shots. They’re talented players, special players.”
DeRozan led the top trio with 22 points, seven rebounds, and three assists with one steal and one block apiece. LaVine, who has been embroiled in reports of dissatisfaction with his role and the front office, struggled from the floor.
Lavine had 13 points on 36.4% shooting and knocked down just 1-of-4 of his looks from beyond the arc, though he did add five rebounds, four assists, and a pair of blocks.
Most importantly, he contributed to winning basketball.
This is a great sign for a twosome in DeRozan and LaVine mired in rumors of discontent. They have already each had to respond to trade rumors and address the rough spot in their on-court relationship. All of it seemed to spell a certain disaster for the Bulls who had lost three of their last four games but found a way to snap the longest active win streak in the NBA.
“They played together as a team tonight. I think we made them miss a couple times but it wasn’t consistent enough all game,” he said. “You got to give them credit. When we swung back, they swung as well and was able to withstand our runs and got a good win.”
Bulls Other Guys Won The Game
Durant attributed much of the damage done by DeRozan and LaVine to “a couple busted coverages” on the Nets’ end, praising the efforts of their less-celebrated players specifically naming an embattled trio.
“When you look their top two guys were 12-for-31 for 35 points,” he said of the Bulls’ dynamic duo. “We can live with that. But it’s Pat Williams made some shots, got some easy rolls to the rim. Ayo [Dosunmu] currently playing great this year, put pressure on the rim. Vooch came out…and they featured him, threw the ball to him in the post a lot.”
Williams tied DeRozan in scoring a season-high 22 points.
He also grabbed seven rebounds as well as a logging pair of assists and steals. It was a nice rebound from a rough finish against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Bulls’ last game.
Dosunmu had 17 points, seven boards, two steals, one assist, and one block apiece. He is averaging 14.5 points on 60.1% true shooting with 4.5 boards, 2.5 assists, and 1.8 steals over the last four games.
Vucevic has been a scapegoat for the team’s shortcomings leaving him mired in trade rumors.
But he chipped in 21 points and 13 rebounds in this one with three assists and two blocks. Over the last two games, Vucevic is averaging 20.5 points on 82.5% true shooting with 13 boards.
“When you got your whole [starting] five in double figures it’s hard to stop that,” he said.
The Bulls Held It Together
Brooklyn’s largest lead was two points and came in the first quarter. To Durant’s point, they would draw as close as three points in the fourth quarter. But the Bulls outscored the Nets 23-17 the rest of the way to get the “good win”.
It brings their record against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference to 6-1.
That is a perplexing mark considering their losing record against sub-.500 teams and the dispiriting losses they have suffered in recent weeks.