It’s time to start taking the Chicago Bulls seriously.
Two days after blowing out the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls soundly defeated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 117-107. The win placed Chicago at 8-3, tied with the Washington Wizards for first place in the Eastern Conference. After the game, one Mavericks player came away impressed by the Bulls but didn’t need a lot of words to convey it.
The Chicago Bulls thrashed the Dallas Mavericks
Chicago recently had to endure back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia 76ers. But its recovery was swift, beating Kevin Durant, James Harden, and the Nets 118-95 to get back on track. Soon after, it was the Mavericks who were forced to face Chicago’s wrath.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Bulls outscored the Mavs 63-47 in the second and third quarters to build a comfortable cushion. Zach LaVine, who continues to play through a thumb injury, led the team with 23 points, going 8-for-12 from the field. Elsewhere, Lonzo Ball scored 21 points on a season-high seven threes. Ball, who also played a team-high 39 minutes, didn’t record a turnover for the second straight game.
Elsewhere, Nikola Vucevic recorded his third consecutive double-double and seventh overall, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 boards. Demar DeRozan, who leads the team with 26.0 points per game, added 17 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists. And Alex Caruso scored 16 points in 23 minutes off of the bench and added six steals, giving him a league-leading 2.6 steals per game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. praised the Bulls
The Bulls impressed on Wednesday, putting together a 3-point clinic while holding Dallas to 36.4% shooting from beyond the arc. At 8-3, they are well on their way to their first postseason appearance since 2017. And they are putting the rest of the league on notice, especially Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (h/t: Daniel Greenberg).
“All I can say is, ‘Bulls are back, man.’ That’s all I can say.”Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway Jr. was one of Dallas’ better performers on Wednesday, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 21 points. But despite his high praise, Caruso believes there is still a long way to go.
“Eleven games into the season, I don’t think you can say anybody’s back, especially for the prestige of the Bulls,” said Caruso, per ESPN. “They won three championships in a row twice. Being back, that’s a big statement.”
“We have games here and there where we’re just kind of finding ways to win, and I think that’s the sign of a good team,” added the former Los Angeles Lakers guard. “I think we have a lot of ways to get better. That’s probably the most encouraging thing for me.”
The Chicago Bulls appear to be a contender
Right now, Chicago’s 8-3 record is a clear sign of things going in the right direction. But more numbers prove how the Bulls are truly one of the best teams in the NBA.
Entering Thursday, Chicago is sixth in offensive rating and eighth in defensive rating. Only the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Utah Jazz also rank in the top-10 of both categories. Its point differential of 7.2 trails only those three teams, as well. And the team has managed to win with the league’s fewest three-point attempts (300), 190 less than the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
With Wednesday’s victory serving as an outlier, the Bulls are winning without the 3-ball. Chicago is the best free-throw shooting team in the league, hitting 85.8% of their tries from the stripe. It also boasts the fewest turnovers per game with 12.4. Billy Donovan’s club can still hit a shot from distance, however, ranking seventh with a 36.7% 3-point rate.
The Bulls will now go through a rigorous five-game road trip out west, starting with a Friday showdown against the league-leading Warriors. Should they leave as victors, the Bulls could prove Hardaway Jr. right and be back for good.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.