Drummond plays like an All-Star again as Bulls overtake Hawks

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Having won 8 of their last 11 games since losing Zach LaVine to injury, the Chicago Bulls have done absolutely everything in their power to prove they still deserve to be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference. After building up all this positive momentum, they were also faced with a crucial challenge last night as the Atlanta Hawks came to town.

With both teams struggling to start the season, the loser of last night's game would be pushed down to the 11th seed and out of play-in tournament position, making it that much more important of a game to win. Already down three key contributors in Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and Torrey Craig, things would only get worse for the Bulls when it was announced Nikola Vucevic would miss last night's contest due to a bruised adductor injury.

This would only make things much more difficult for Chicago, considering half of the Bulls' payroll would be on the injury report and they'd be forced to make due against a quality frontcourt rotation that features the likes of Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson, and Saddiq Bey.

Fortunately, Andre Drummond would step up off the bench to replace the loss of the Montenegrin big man and perform better than even the most optimistic fans could have hoped for. Drummond would pour on 24 points and game-highs of 25 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks to help the Bulls best their Eastern Conference rival.

Andre Drummond seems to have plenty of gas left in the tank as he pushes the Bulls past the Hawks.

Drummond was a hyper-efficient 11-for-13 from the field, which helped compensate for a relatively lackluster shooting performance from Chicago's lead guard Coby White. Shooting 7-for-22 from the field and 0-for-7 from three-point range, Coby was forced to find other ways to contribute by playing stout defense and making plays for his teammates when his shot wasn't falling.

Despite Drummond's dominance on the offensive end, it was actually DeMar DeRozan who led the team with 25 points and 6 assists. Ayo Dosunmu was a decisive x-factor off the bench as he contributed 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals while Alex Caruso continued to prove how valuable his defense is to this team by holding Atlanta's superstar guard Trae Young to a poor 6-for-17 shooting from the field.

Each time the Hawks pulled close down the stretch, DeRozan would hit a huge shot to put the Bulls ahead and keep the game out of reach. Although many fans were calling for the Bulls to trade DeMar just a few weeks ago, it's obvious to see how crucial his leadership is for this team moving forward.

This win puts the Bulls firmly in the 10th seed in the East, while the Hawks now slide to 11th. If the season were to end today, Chicago would get a chance to earn their ticket to the playoffs via the play-in tournament. Winners in 9 of their last 12 games, I'm not counting the Bulls out from winning a spot outright just yet. Chicago is only 4.5 games back from the 6th seed and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, so if they manage to continue winning at this rate they have a real shot of making noise in the postseason.

Of course, the Bulls may hit a bump in the road soon here as Vucevic could potentially miss more time with this injury. As good as Drummond was last night, I'm not sure we can rely on him to continue producing at such an unsustainable rate. Of course, I'd be happy for him to prove me wrong, as he's earned the chance to prove he's more than a minimum-salary tier player in the NBA.

His next chance to impress will come on Thursday, December 28 as the Bulls host the Pacers before playing a set of back-to-back games against Drummond's former team, the 76ers.