On a night when Otto Porter left the game at halftime with a left foot contusion, Wendell Carter Jr. played only 13 minutes and Zach LaVine, Thad Young and Coby White shot a combined 8-for-29, the Bulls won by 20. On the road. On the second night of a back-to-back.
Coming off a loss to the Lakers that would have crushed the souls of most, the Bulls submitted their most impressive game of the season in a 113-93 win in Atlanta Wednesday night. They played hard, out-rebounding their opponent for only the third time this season. They played fast, winning the fast-break points battle 18-6. And they played active, forcing 24 Hawks turnovers while only allowing 30 three-point attempts (a figure Jim Boylen was especially pleased with).
The story of the night, though, was Tomas Satoransky, who notched a career performance — 27 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting (4-of-5 from deep) — as other stars and franchise cornerstones melted into the background:
“It was super important,” Satoransky said of the win. “I think we were all frustrated the way the last game [against the Lakers] went, but this league is all about that: Forgetting that you almost beat one of the best teams playing 36 minutes of good basketball, and you have to bounce back in another city. I think we did that today and hopefully this can be a turnaround game for us.”
In the bounceback victory, Satoransky flashed the litany of capabilities that made him such an enticing pickup for the Bulls this offseason. He drained catch-and-shoot threes. He probed and pulled up off the dribble when appropriate. He made plays for others in the pick-and-roll, while not sacrificing opportunities to get to the hoop, himself. He was a leader in the fast-break. En route to an efficient 27 points on 13 shots, the 6-foot-7 combo guard routinely abused a favorable matchup against the diminutive Trae Young, and got more than a few great looks either at the rim or from floater range. This is the good stuff right here:
But perhaps most impressive was Satoransky’s work on the defensive end, especially in helping contain Young. The blitzing strategy the Bulls have employed defending pick-and-rolls has been the subject of much derision in the early going this season, but their aggressiveness paid off against a lethargic Atlanta squad on Wednesday. Satoransky and Kris Dunn—who had five steals on the evening—pestered Young all night, combining to hold him to just 9 points and 0-of-8 shooting from three-point range.
“We just tried to make things complicated for him, not to give him open looks, crowd on him,” Satoransky said. “We were aggressive in offense, as well against him, and we tried to run every time we had [the] opportunity.”
Granted, this game was against a short-handed team that isn’t known for its defensive prowess to begin with. But for Satoransky, who was averaging 6.5 points and 5.4 assists on 39.1% shooting (and had yet to score in double digits) entering the night, this type of performance illustrates the ceiling of value he can potentially provide this Bulls team as a playmaker and next-man-up.
He doesn’t have to smash personal records or play up to MJ-level standards every night—whether this season ends with a playoff berth or a high lottery pick, Satoransky will have a significant role to play in making this team's parts, and the sum of those parts, better.
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