After the start of the 0-3 season with two losses and a sledgehammer blow against the Chicago Bulls, morale was low in Chicago.
Tuesday’s victory at the Washington Wizards was encouraging, but Thursday’s revenge at the Wizards was a real test for the Bulls, who were short four players, Lori Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchinson and Thomas Satoranski, for health reasons.
It was a stress test for an evolving team that is still adapting to Billy Donovan’s standards and expectations in the new system. And Chicago accepted the challenge.
Seven players scored in double digits. Thursday evening’s game saw 34 assists for a 133-130 victory. Otto Porter Jr. had 28 points and 12 rebounds. Zach LaVine had trouble shooting 6 out of 17 in total and 1 out of 7 from a distance, but he scored 22 points from 9-10 by shooting from the free throw line, hitting several important free throws in the game.
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Lavin: This team is tired of being labeled an outsider.
In a game where the Bulls saw solid contributions from the bench, Thursday’s game was more than just a victory from LaVine’s perspective.
This team is tired of being labeled as a loser and an outsider, says Lavin. It won’t be perfect. We’re not gonna win every game. But our behavior is much better than the last two years.
Yes, Chicago (2-3) has two victories in the season against a winless Wizards team (0-5), but playing with a team that has defeated only four players has a will to win that the Bulls can hope to keep until Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, winners of the last 11 games with Chicago.
The attitude of the Bulls probably won’t always be soft in the middle of a season with many changes on the horizon, but after two straight victories, Chicago has started to see a return to team basketball.
Bulls come in seasonAfter a rough start of the season
At the press conference after the race, Porter, who is back in shape after several seasons of injuries, paid tribute to the progress of the team led by Donovan.
It shows growth, said Otto Porter Jr. Given the circumstances, it just shows that we are willing to learn as a team, and every race allows us to learn from our mistakes and move forward.
The Bulls embodied Porter’s message after the game with 44 seconds to go when Russell Westbrook, who had already hit his usual triple-double, was pushed to the edge, but was hit by a slippery Avalanche, which blocked a rising Westbrook to maintain Chicago’s one-point lead.
Protect Zach LaVine! @NBCSChicago | @ZachLaVine pic.twitter.com/ks2HqPtfMh
– Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) 1. January 2021
Kobe White, who finished the game with 16 points and 10 assists, played a solid defense against Bradley Beal on the Wizards’ next possession, challenged him to the basket and exerted enough pressure to miss two All-Star goaltenders. Porter cleared after White’s save and hit two free throws to seal the game.
Donovan thought about the game and echoed Porter’s words.
It was a step forward because I thought when we had a setback in the second half against Indiana, we didn’t come back and we weren’t competitive. And I thought that we were fighting much better (Thursday) in the middle of many races and changes in the momentum, and that we had to regroup and refocus, Donovan said. We played a few games in the field, which was really nice to see.
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