With Zach LaVine likely to miss multiple games with a knee injury and several other players already on the shelf, the Chicago Bulls will need more than one player to step up during the team’s current, road-heavy stretch. However, Nikola Vucevic will be counted on more than most.
So far, though, the two-time NBA All-Star has mostly looked equal to the task.
On Saturday night, Vucevic had a monster game for the shorthanded Bulls against the Boston Celtics. The big man played 35 minutes in the contest, scoring 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting and adding six boards, six assists, two steals and a blocked shot for Chicago.
As good as he was for the majority of the game, though, the Bulls ultimately fell to the Beantowners, 114-112. And when Vucevic was on the floor, his team was outscored by 10 points. Moreover, he had a particularly rough go of things during crunch time.
Vooch’s Big Choke
On a night where the Bulls were forced to start Coby White, rookie Ayo Dosunmu and Alfonzo McKinnie alongside DeMar DeRozan and Vucevic, the Montenegrin maestro played a key role in keeping his club in the game. His multiple clutch miscues cannot be overlooked, though.
With 1:12 left in the contest and the Bulls clinging to a four-point lead, Vucevic bobbled a pass from Dosunmu, which led to a turnover. Although the Bulls got back to prevent a Jaylen Brown lay-up, the All-Star wing eventually hit a jumper to make the score 112-110.
Then, with only 9.7 seconds remaining and the game tied at 112, Vucevic was whistled for a loose-ball foul while battling for position with Robert Williams III. That resulted in a pair of free throws to give the Celtics a two-point edge.
Finally, he came up short on an open three-point attempt (which might have won the game) just before time expired.
“We were able to get a really good look,” Vucevic said post-game, via NBC Sports Chicago. “They both went with DeMar and I was able to pop to the three and he made the right play. Just missed the shot. Really good look.”
Caruso Exits Health and Safety Protocols
Although the Bulls must continue to make good on their next-man-up mentality, they’ll be getting at least some help soon in the form of a returning Alex Caruso. As noted by team insider KC Johnson and others, Caruso has officially cleared health and safety protocols.
That said, he won’t be on the floor for the team’s Monday bout with the Memphis Grizzlies. Instead, he’ll remain out for “return to competition reconditioning,” i.e. the post-protocols ramp-up.
Caruso, who is averaging 8.4 points, 4.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game this season, hasn’t played since December 20.