Coby White is enjoying a special stretch of basketball right now. In each of the Bulls’ two games prior to Tuesday night’s matchup with the Thunder, White set and matched career-high scoring totals with consecutive 33-point outings — something no rookie reserve had ever done.
But Chris Paul was determined to stop it.
“I told Coby he wasn’t going to score 33 tonight,” said Paul, who coached White at the AAU level and has forged a deep bond with him since.
Mission accomplished. Sort of.
White poured in a new career-high of 35 points in a nail-biter of a 124-122 loss to Oklahoma City, shooting 13-for-21 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range. At 20 years old and in his first NBA season, White has now logged three 30-point games in a row, all off the bench. Here are a few reasons that is statistically ridiculous:
White is the first reserve in Bulls franchise history to post three consecutive 30-point games (via Bulls Game Notes)
White is the first rookie to score 30 points in three consecutive games since starters were first recorded in 1970-71 (via ESPN Stats & Info)
He’s also the first rookie to achieve that feat while hitting five or more 3-pointers in each game since the 3-point shot was introduced in 1979-80 (via Elias Sports Bureau)
Zach LaVine and White became the second pair of Chicago teammates in franchise history to each score 30-plus points in consecutive games, joining Bob Love and Chet Walker, who did it in 1969 (via Elias Sports Bureau)
White is the first Bulls rookie to score 35 points in a game since Ben Gordon in 2005. Other Bulls rookies to score 35 points in a game: Michael Jordan (21 times) and Elton Brand (twice). Solid company (via Bulls Game Notes)
In his last three games, White is averaging 33.7 points per on 57.4/58.1/92.9 shooting splits (20.3 FGA/g, 10.3 3PA/g).
In that stretch, the Bulls are scoring at a rate of 120.1 points per 100 possessions (with a +15.6 net rating) with White on the floor, and just 92.2 points per 100 (with a -41.8 net rating) with him off.
I don’t have any further historical context for those last two. They’re just absurd.
“That’s what he [does]. He shoots lights out,” Paul said. “I’m glad to see that he’s playing with that confidence, and this summer we’ll get in the gym and we’ll go to work.
"I watch him play just about every time we don't play, so I'm happy to see him doing well."
Respect 🤝 pic.twitter.com/xTk2hz44Xe— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) February 26, 2020
“He’s coming into his own, and I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” Zach LaVine said. “He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old, I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.”
LaVine and White combined for 76 of the Bulls’ 122 points against Oklahoma City, collectively keeping the team’s offense afloat in a floundering first half, then vaulting them back into the game with an infernal third quarter. LaVine (with 19 points) and White (with nine) combined for 28 points on collective 12-for-17 shooting (4-for-6 from deep) in the third, a period the Bulls won 38-19.
“It’s been great, especially with both of us on the court,” LaVine said. “There was a couple times in the fourth — that third quarter, when we were down, I spent so much energy trying to get us back into it — and he held onto that lead for us.
“But it’s been great, man. He’s been putting a lot of hard work in. I go into the gym late or I shoot after practice and he’s right there. He’s gonna be special.”
White played 33 minutes in the game and was a team-high +15. When he’s ‘on’ he makes the Bulls fun, interesting and electric. LaVine went on to sing gratitude for White’s ability to draw defensive attention away from him over the course of games, and shoulder on-ball responsibilities in spot moments.
Just don’t ask Jim Boylen if he’s ready to promote White to the starting lineup.
“I keep getting this question and I'm just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”
Point taken. And the way things are going, perhaps that’s perfectly OK.