John J. Graybeal

Bulls observations: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Thad Young lead way to much-needed win

Bulls observations: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Thad Young lead way to much-needed win

The Bulls snapped a drawn-out eight-game losing streak in beating the Wizards 126-117 on Sunday. The offense fired on all cylinders, Coby White continued his torrid stretch and Bradley Beal dropped a 50-burger, but overall, it was a next man up type of night. Some observations:

Coby White is developing before our very eyes

Have to tip the cap to Jim Boylen on insisting to continue to bring Coby White off the bench, even amid widespread injuries. White has flourished in that role out of the All-Star break.

Against Phoenix on Saturday, White posted a career-high 33 points with seven 3-pointers. Tonight, he wasted no time continuing that momentum with 16 points in seven first-quarter minutes (26 points in the first half). White matched that this evening, finishing with 33 points on 11-for-18 (5-for-9 from 3), and a game-high +16.

 

The flashes embedded in that impressive statline were all the more tantalizing. There was a sequence in the first quarter where White flew by but recovered to contest a missed Bradley Beal 3-pointer, then nabbed the rebound and flashed coast-to-coast, finishing through contact on the other end (his burst off live rebounds and steals is eye-popping).

A turnaround, fading and-one jumper. That buzzer beater to end the first. A one-handed, crosscourt dime that resulted in a Ryan Arcidiacono 3. On multiple occasions, White attacked mismatches and got to the rim with gumption. His defensive rotations have (mostly) been their crispest of late, and he’s shooting and moving decisively on-ball on the offensive end. 

This should excite Bulls fans tremendously. White’s rookie season has meandered to this point, but if this is the start of a tear down the stretch, we could exit this season with at least one marked positive.

Thad Young continues to be a bright spot

Thad Young isn’t a 20-year-old potential cornerstone of the franchise, but his improvements over the season are certainly worth appreciating, specifically shooting the ball.

After beginning the season ice-cold from long range, Young has brought his 3-point shooting percentage up to around the league average — entering play, his season-long mark was 35.1% and since Jan. 1, he was shooting 39% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game. Those figures will continue to rise after Sunday; Young notched a season-high 25 points with six rebounds and three steals on 9-for-15 shooting (5-for-7 from deep) in 30 minutes against the Wiz.

Overall, Young is now averaging 14 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals (the defense has always been steady) since moving to the starting lineup in place of the injured Lauri Markkanen — shooting 53.5% from the floor — and has scored in double figures in 13 straight games. Asked what’s behind his improved play the other night, Young’s response was simple: “More minutes.” He’s averaging 31.3 of those since sliding into the starting lineup.

Zach LaVine doesn’t back down from a challenge

When Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal — two of the preeminent scoring guards in the Eastern Conference — square off, there’s bound to be sparks. They delivered tonight, trading buckets early and often, and jawing at each other (good-naturedly) throughout.

LaVine finished the night 32 points on 11-for-20 shooting, scoring 10 with a timely steal in the fourth; Beal topped that with 53 points of his own, but LaVine owned the stretch run. They’re fun and good.

Oh, and LaVine went record shopping. With his third (of six) 3-pointers Sunday, he broke Ben Gordon’s franchise record for 3s made in a season of 173. LaVine’s at 177 and counting.

 

LaVine also committed nine of the team's new season-high 29 turnovers, but we'll wait to harp on that for a bleaker night.

A prideful performance

Hey, the Bulls got back in the win column! And they did it on the second night of a back-to-back following a really tough loss — even by their standards — to Phoenix the night before. 

The Bulls shot well (55.6% from the field), re-found their defensive identity (forcing 24 turnovers and scoring 23 points off them) and stymied multiple second half swoons to eventually emerge victorious. White, LaVine and Young combined for 90 points, with Satoransky chipping in 15 points, 13 assists and four steals — another strong performance against his old team. Even the rotational weirdness was fun; on multiple occasions, Boylen turned to five-guard lineups with Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio perpetual foul trouble threats. 

Above all: The eight-game losing streak mercifully ceases.

Of course, these are the Wizards (the lowest-rated defense in the NBA) — though refreshing, this victory doesn’t change much about the long-term fate of this season. But a blowout victory is a nice change of pace nevertheless.

Back at the UC to cap the homestand versus the Thunder on Tuesday.

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