Bulls

Presented By Bulls Insider
Bulls

DETROIT — The Bulls’ 119-107 victory over the Pistons Saturday night actually began Wednesday night in Washington.

That’s when, to a man, the Bulls emphasized that their improbable comeback victory over the Wizards in overtime would mean nothing if they didn’t build on it.

Don’t look now, but the Bulls are actually showing growth. They took advantage of an opponent down three key players in Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, something they failed to do with weakened opponents earlier in the season. After a disappointing close to the third quarter, they ran away and hid with an impressive fourth quarter.

And everyone knows closing games hasn’t been a strength of this season.

Their efforts were rewarded by pulling one game behind the Magic — with a Monday matchup looming in Orlando — in a loss-heavy Eastern Conference playoff picture.

“We can play with anybody if we guard,” Kris Dunn said. “That's the biggest thing, guarding and rebounding. Rebounding has been our pet peeve. But if we guard and rebound, man, I think we can be really good.”

Dunn gets the floor first because it’s hard to overlook his contribution since entering the starting lineup. The Bulls are 6-6 and rank second only to the Bucks in defensive rating since Dunn replaced the injured Chandler Hutchison.

Dunn posted nine points, four assists, three rebounds and added to his league-leading total with four steals against the Pistons. He now has at least three steals in 12 games.

 

“He’s a freaking dawg,” Zach LaVine said. “He’s not scared of nothing. He’s going to talk his stuff. He’s one of the best defenders out there. He takes that challenge. He brings an energy and toughness to the team. He’ll even talk to me if I’m doing something wrong. He’ll pick me up and get me going. I love everything that he does.”

Not that Dunn has had much to stay to LaVine, of late. LaVine continued his recent run of efficient play, scoring 33 points on 9-of-15 shooting and getting to the line 14 times, making 10.

LaVine has done a nice job lately not forcing action early and letting the game come to him. Then, he asserts himself as the game gets to the tauter moments, the bigger stage. He added five assists against Detroit. And while he contributed to the Bulls’ turnover bug with five of the team’s 21, his unselfish play is drawing notice.

“We’ve been talking about it. It’s almost like setting up the table. You can’t just make food and then think you’re going to eat it out of the pot,” Dunn said. “You gotta put the plates down. You gotta put the forks down. You gotta put the glasses down. That’s what he’s doing.

“He’s not scoring, scoring, scoring, scoring. That’s easy to guard. He’s getting his team involved. He’s staying aggressive and then when the fourth quarter comes, be you.”

Once again, the Bulls received multiple contributions. Tomas Satoransky reached double figures in the first 6-minutes plus and finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Coby White snapped out of a slump with five 3-pointers and 19 points in 17 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Bulls also won the rebounding battle — no small item against a team that employs Andre Drummond — and followed Jim Boylen’s game plan.

But Dunn, who finished plus-21, and LaVine, a plus-20, stood out.

“He helps us get organized at both ends. He’s a great communicator. He’s one of the top defenders in the league. He’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate to me,” coach Jim Boylen said of Dunn. “He takes the challenge, moves to the next play. He has improved at the offensive end. His decision-making has improved. And he’s becoming a complete player. But his spirt and his understanding of his role and job in that lineup is what makes it for us.”

Boylen cited calmness and maturity for the Bulls staying poised after allowing back-to-back 3-pointers from Markieff Morris to trim a 10-point lead to four entering the fourth. LaVine scored 13 of the Bulls’ 26 points in the final period.

“I think it’s slowing down a little bit for me personally and I know when to take over and take shots,” LaVine said. “But recently I’ve been seeing the extra play or swinging when two guys are on me. The game is slowing down. This is the first 30 games and we haven’t played together obviously, so I think a little bit of that experience is starting to come in.

 

“We’re a team. With some of the tough losses we haven’t quit, really. We’re in every game. I feel like we don’t show what our record is. We’re a team that we practice hard. We understand how good we can be and how we’ve been giving up some of these leads to where we can be in a different position. We’re resilient.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.