After falling short and failing to win a single game in the group stages of the NBA's first-ever In-Season Tournament, the Chicago Bulls would instead have to play a pair of consolation games rather than compete for the tourney's grand prize this week. Fortunately, it seems that was just what this team needed, as the Bulls soundly defeated the first of their consolation opponents — the Charlotte Hornets — 111-100 last night.
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 29 points, while Nikola Vucevic dropped 20 and Coby White contributed another 19. It was a very balanced affair from the Bulls in general, as 8 different players chipped in 6 points or more. Down star point guard LaMelo Ball, last night was an opportunity the Bulls could not afford to let pass, so I'm happy to see they took care of business.
This victory marks Chicago's third-consecutive addition to the win column, the first time they've accomplished that feat this season. In fact, this is the first time the Bulls have managed to win three games straight since March 20 of last season, a lousy 262-day streak that I'm relieved to say has now been broken. The Bulls will get the chance to extend their streak to four games against the 3-17 Spurs on Friday, a feat they haven't managed since February 24. 2022.
The Bulls have overcome adversity to post their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Without Zach LaVine to take the reigns offensively, it was a relief to see the Bulls rise to the occasion and handle their business. DeRozan assumed the lead role last night, but he wasn't alone in his efforts. Coby led the Bulls in assists while also reeling in 9 rebounds, Patrick Williams was a defensive powerhouse with 4 combined steals and blocks, and even Ayo Dosunmu helped provide a big boost of energy, posting a +11 plus/minus in just 22 minutes off the bench.
For a moment there, it did appear Chicago's momentum was on the brink of coming to a grinding halt when the wheels started to fall off for DeRozan late in the second quarter. DeMar missed four consecutive shot attempts (and a free throw) before committing a foolish transition take foul that helped the Hornets cap off a 15-3 run to end the first half, but whatever Billy Donovan said during halftime clearly worked.
The Bulls would outscore Charlotte 35-20 in the third quarter, not having any trouble scoring the basketball without LaVine. Now that Zach appears to be resting indefinitely, Chicago will continue needing this level of effort and consistency from the supporting cast if the Bulls are to work their way back up the standings.
It's a tall ask from an 8-14 squad, but all they can do is continue focusing on the next game on the schedule. Fortunately, a San Antonio team in the midst of a ridiculous 15-game losing streak is about as ideal of a matchup as one can ask for. Tune in at 8:30 ET on Friday to see if the Bulls can keep their winning ways alive for another week.