Coby White notched his first 20-point game in a month-and-a-half against the Pacers, and the full array was on display. In a spurt of particular poignance, the Bulls rookie forged a personal 9-0 run that pulled the Bulls to within 74-72 with 2:13 to go in the third quarter, the tightest margin since the end of the first. The UC was raucous.
“It was fun, it was fun. Me and [Zach LaVine] got hot, we went on a little streak,” White acknowledged. LaVine and White combined for 23 of the Bulls 26 third quarter points, draining seven 3s between the two of them.
But, as Bulls opponents do, the Pacers pulled away in the fourth, eventually grabbing a double-digit victory without their three best players in Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. As far as silver linings go, White’s spark-plug 23-point, 5-for-9 3-point shooting performance shimmers. But after the fact, he wasn’t ready to talk moral victories.
“If you win, then everything works out for you. If you don't, nothing matters,” White said. “It sucks, we play so hard and we always come up short. Just gotta stay positive, though.”
That resonates, but it’s worth appreciating White’s splendor, especially with his opportunities as general of the Bulls’ second unit continuing to grow. So, after the game, Jim Boylen and LaVine took time to do just that.
“Coby's a confident scorer, he's a resilient young guy. He'll miss two in a row and he'll keep playing, and I think that's very important for us,” Boylen said. “He's a baller. He balls. He plays.
“He works very hard, he was in the gym yesterday for an hour-and-a-half. I sat there and watched him. He doesn't take days off, and he's a worker." Boylen went on to commend White's markedly improved off-hand finishing (by my count, he canned two lefty layups against the Pacers).
“Coby's off the charts, I mean, I told y'all that from the beginning of the year, I said this dude is big-time,” LaVine said. “He can score in bunches, he can score in many ways, towards the hoop, 3-pointers, midrange. You know, when he gets hot it's tough to guard him, and we gotta try to find him. And it was big, we needed it tonight.”
To his point, LaVine (43) and White (23) combined for 66 points against the Pacers. The rest of the Bulls’ rotation: 39. When White scores 18 or more, the Bulls own a 6-3 record — not eye-popping by any means, but notable for a team with only 13 total wins, at present. There’s no doubt White’s contributions are needed.
LaVine reasserted the playoffs as the team's goal, as did White. And as crazy as that might sound, with the Bulls near-equal distance from the East's eighth seed and No. 1 lottery odds, it’s not yet impossible.
But even if that doesn’t come to fruition, perhaps the frenzies White has shown the ability to throw the Bulls faithful into (especially when working in concert with LaVine) will inspire a modicum of hope for what’s further on the horizon. The general efficiency over long stretches is still lacking for White, but he's shooting shot 40% from 3 on 4.5 attempts per game since the start of December.
For the time being, though, he’ll stay focused on continuing to improve and, of course, the team.
“We're still playing for something,” White said. “We just gotta keep grinding towards that.”
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