Point made in Bulls win over Pacers as coach Billy Donovan makes ‘bold’ defensive comments

Already this season, the Bulls have had a team meeting, a Nikola Vucevic meltdown, and Zach LaVine’s frustration with the new-look offense. The players did what Donovan asked of them on Monday, and the result was a big win over the undefeated Pacers.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — By no means was this game a fix for the Bulls’ offense.

It was, however, progress, albeit a small Band-Aid on a wound that remains an issue early in the regular season.


How long would it take these players to figure out what coach Billy Donovan wanted them to do, and, more importantly, would there be collateral damage before they did it?


Center Nikola Vucevic hoped that everyone had recovered from the team meetings and meltdowns.


“There are definitely some positives,” Vucevic said after the Bulls defeated the Pacers 112-105. “We know what works, and now it’s up to us to implement it.”


On a night when Vucevic had 24 points, Zach LaVine had 23, and DeMar DeRozan had 20, the Bulls (2-2) handed the Pacers their first loss of the season in convincing fashion.


They never trailed by more than eight points, and they didn’t blink when it came down to the final five minutes.


It was by far Donovan’s team’s best all-around performance, especially considering they only made 17 three-pointers.


But were there any lessons learned?


After an embarrassing loss in Detroit on Saturday, in which LaVine scored a career-high 51 points, LaVine expressed his displeasure with Donovan’s offense and admitted that the team was still trying to figure it out.


“We’re trying out this new thing to have a complete, cohesive offense, equal opportunity, and it’ll take some figuring out,” LaVine said in Detroit. “I and DeMar were in the corner a lot in the first couple of games.” Now we’re attempting to figure out how to get more involved with touches.”


DeRozan and LaVine land in top-40 of ESPN's NBA player rankings - Sports  Illustrated Chicago Bulls News, Analysis and More


Donovan said he hadn’t heard or read what LaVine said, but DeRozan had 33 points against Toronto and LaVine had a 51-point game the next night, so he couldn’t imagine either player being in a bind.


That’s why, since training camp began, Donovan has had no trouble defending what he was asking of his offense.


“I know when it’s just those guys [LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic] and Vucevic; last year they all had elite offensive performances individually, and we still had the 24th-ranked offense,” Donovan said. “Do those guys ever hang out in the corner?” Yes, we must space the floor. To have a good offense, everyone must make a universal sacrifice.

‘Hey, let’s throw the ball to DeMar, let him go [isolation]’ can’t be it. ‘Hey, let’s throw it to Zach and put him in the middle of the floor for a high pick-and-roll.’

“We have a body of work to look at, and if we keep doing the same things, we’ll get the same results.”

That’s why the game against the Pacers was so crucial.

“Are we going to make it now?” Vucevic explained. “As players, we must do whatever it takes to get there.”

And Donovan will keep attempting to assist.

Donovan admitted that during training camp, he simplified some actions to help with the adjustment. He was asked if the offense was confusing or if the players simply didn’t understand what was being asked.

“There’s nothing we’re doing that these guys haven’t done before,” Donovan explained. “It’s not a democratic universal style of play,” Donovan explained. “Those guys have to be who they are. But, even if it was a democratic style of play throughout, I would bet that by the end of the year, Zach, Vooch, and DeMar will be our team’s three leading shot-takers.”

The point has been made.





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