The Chicago Bulls are still streaking.
After Friday’s 130-122 win over the Washington Wizards at the United Center, the franchise has its first nine-game win streak since April 2011 – and, at 26-10, hold a 2.5-game lead over the Nets and Bucks for first in the Eastern Conference.
Here are 10 observations:
1. The first half was a game of runs, particularly late in the first quarter and early in the second. The Bulls used an 18-7 sprint between the 2:16 mark of the first and 10:34 mark of the second to go from a 26-25 lead to 44-32. Then, the Wizards punched back to cut to 50-49 by the 6:32 mark. Three minutes later the Bulls were back ahead 64-53 – and led 73-66 at the break.
2. As you’d expect in a 73-point half, the Bulls’ offense was humming. They shot 54.2 percent (47.4 percent from 3), dished 19 assists and scored 19 fastbreak points between quarters one and two, placing four players in double-figures: Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu.
3. Between White (11 points, 3-for-4 shooting), Dosunmu (11 points, 4-for-4), Troy Brown Jr. (5 points, 2-for-2) and Tony Bradley (4 points, 2-for-2), the Bulls’ bench scored 31 points on combined 11-for-12 shooting in the first half, getting two 3-pointers apiece from White and Dosunmu, including a near-buzzer-beating triple from White at the end of the second:
4. LaVine imposed himself in the third quarter, scoring 12 of his game-high 27 points to keep the Bulls above water as the Wizards rallied (and at one point took a lead). LaVine put an exclamation point on the effort by flexing after an and-one layup through Deni Avdija that put the Bulls ahead 97-89.
5. White then grabbed the reins to score eight points in the final 77 seconds of the third to push the Bulls’ lead to 12 – he hit two 3-pointers, then a runner at the period’s buzzer, after which he held his follow-through and high-fived a fan sitting courtside:
White finished with his sixth straight double-digit scoring effort, pouring in 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting (4-for-4 from 3-point range) in 32 minutes and capably filling in as the Bulls went uber-small for long stretches with Derrick Jones Jr. in foul trouble. White has fully found his footing; he's now scored 20 points in three of his last four games, and is averaging 18.7 points while shooting 55 percent from 3-point range in his last six.
6. Dosunmu has a new single-game scoring high for his career. He posted 18 points – shooting 7-for-9 and 3-for-4 from 3 – guarded Bradley Beal for stretches and swiped three steals (two in the fourth quarter as the Bulls blew the game open). The playing-time debate between White and Dosunmu has been a consistent storyline, but they’ve meshed in unison the last few games.
When Alex Caruso returns from health and safety protocols, the backcourt rotation will be interesting to monitor.
7. The Bulls’ depth shined in this one. Buoyed by White and Dosunmu, the bench scored 52 points on 20-for-25 shooting, and Bradley provided productive minutes at backup center in his return from health and safety protocols. In all, the Bulls placed six in double-figures, shot 52.7 percent (15-for-33 from 3-point range) and handed out 34 assists.
That helped the team weather a rare off shooting night for DeMar DeRozan, who went just 5-for-16. DeRozan, though, made his imprint on the game, scoring or assisting on the Bulls’ first eight points of the fourth quarter as they pulled away for good. He had eight dimes on the night.
8. Ball re-found his shooting touch after going 1-for-7 from 3-point range against the Magic in his return from COVID protocols. He made four of his six 3-point attempts in the first half against Washington and finished the game 6-for-11 to continue his career-best campaign from behind the arc.
9. Head coach Billy Donovan has spoken multiple times since returning from his own protocol stint about defensive “slippage” by the Bulls lately. And it’s true: Though the Bulls entered play on an eight-game winning streak, they also entered play 19th in the NBA in defensive rating in that span (first in offensive rating).
This may not be an effort he’s thrilled with – the Wizards scored 122 points (25 fastbreak) and shot 51.1 percent – but his side did notch 11 steals, score 20 points off 15 turnovers, hold level on the glass and limit Washington to sub-30 percent 3-point shooting.
10. And Donovan left work with his 300th NBA win (against just 208 losses).
Next up: At the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.