The Bulls Discover Legitimate Positives Amid Brutal 3-Game Losing Streak
The Chicago Bulls still hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference and remain a strong NBA title contender. However, the last three games highlighted massive defensive issues while bringing about an injury to Zach LaVine and knee concerns that for Lonzo Ball. It’s a far cry from the team that won nine games in a row from Dec. 19 to Jan. 7.
Still, for all the negatives surrounding Chicago’s three-game losing streak, the Bulls are finding positives that can benefit them in the long run. Those subtle pluses could ultimately prove more valuable to head coach Billy Donovan’s team come April and May.
The Bulls have lost three consecutive games
The Dallas Mavericks interrupted the Bulls’ nine-game losing streak on Jan. 9. But Chicago bounced right back with a blowout win over the Detroit Pistons in their next game. They appeared ready to embark on a new streak.
Indeed, the Bulls played the Brooklyn Nets quite tough for about 26 minutes of game action. Since then, it’s all gone downhill.
The Nets went on a 47-10 run and cruised to a blowout win. Kevin Durant said after the game that he considered Bulls basketball “back,” only for Chicago to suffer a 42-point loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. To make matters worse, Zach LaVine sustained a knee injury, though he is not expected to miss significant time.
Saturday’s loss to the Boston Celtics is arguably the worst. The Bulls clawed their way back into the game and took the lead early in the fourth quarter, only to blow a six-point lead in the final two minutes.
Things are only going to get more difficult for the Bulls. They play a red-hot Memphis Grizzlies team on Monday, then return home for a date with the Cleveland Cavaliers before heading to Milwaukee to play the Bucks.
With a demanding schedule ahead and LaVine on the sidelines, Chicago could take a bit of a tumble. That said, there’s a positive lens through which to view the team’s recent skid.
Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu give the Bulls depth off the bench
As a team, the Bulls are struggling to get back in the win column. From an individual perspective, however, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu are playing winning basketball.
Chicago could reportedly shop White before the February trade deadline as part of a win-now. But the third-year guard is making such a move look like a questionable venture.
Since coming out of health and protocols on Dec. 19, White is averaging 16.4 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.4 rebounds. He’s shooting 50.9% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. More notably, he’s shown aggressiveness going to the basket, opening up his true potential as a playmaker. White has also made gains on the defensive end.
Dosunmu is less of a scoring threat. But he lifts others on the floor with his energy on both ends. It means that much more to the Bulls when he does produce.
The former University of Illinois star made history in Saturday’s loss to the Celtics, becoming the first rookie to have at least 20 points and 10 assists on 90% shooting from the field. Dosunmu also grabbed four rebounds, showing his capacity for impacting the game in multiple ways. Pretty impressive for a guy making his third start.
Depth should be vital for the Bulls, and both White and Dosunmu look increasingly like guys who can get sizable minutes as part of a seven- or eight-man rotation. Meanwhile, one of Chicago’s stars finally looks like he’s busting out of his early-season inconsistencies.
Nikola Vucevic is starting to thrive
Whereas LaVine and DeMar DeRozan established themselves as possibly the most efficient scoring duo in basketball, Nikola Vucevic struggled to live up to his role as the Bulls’ third All-Star.
Vucevic shot the ball poorly from beyond the arc and showed a certain lack of aggression around the basket. His inability to give the Bulls more consistent scoring dropped the team’s offensive ceiling. However, the 31-year-old is starting to play at a high level, and he’s doing it more regularly.
After making history just before the New Year, Vucevic is dominating in 2022. In eight games this month, he’s averaging 18.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on a season-high 55.5% true shooting mark.
Although Vucevic is still having a hard time from the perimeter (27% from beyond the arc), he’s been far more assertive in the low post and as a playmaker. He scored 27 points in Saturday’s loss to the Celtics and had 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting against the Warriors.
The Bulls need Vucevic to take on more responsibility in the short term with LaVine in street clothes. He can help Chicago withstand injuries and get back to winning ways.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.