10 observations: Andre Drummond’s huge game leads Bulls past Hawks

10 observations: Andre Drummond’s huge game leads Bulls past Hawks

10 observations: Andre Drummond’s huge game leads Bulls past Hawks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls improved to 3-1 on this homestand with a 118-113 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night at the United Center.

Here are 10 observations:

—Before the game, coach Billy Donovan said Nikola Vučević will be out for at least the short term with a strained left groin. That meant Andre Drummond drew his first start as a Bull. Drummond owned 630 career starts before Tuesday night, most of them from his All-Star days with the Detroit Pistons. But Tuesday marked the first time Drummond heard public address announcer Tim Sinclair’s familiar “man in the middle” call for the starting center.

—Drummond made his first rotational turn count. He scored six points, including an alley-oop dunk from DeMar DeRozan and two putbacks off offensive rebounds. Drummond also emphatically blocked Clint Capela’s hook.

—Donovan also said he’d utilize small-ball lineups to try to weather Vučević’s absence. Donovan often has favored such lineups, dating to his habit of playing since-departed Derrick Jones Jr. at center. Against the Hawks, Donovan played seldom-used Terry Taylor, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches, as a small-ball center. Patrick Williams also could see some time at the backup center.

—For the third straight game, the Bulls started slowly from 3-point range, missing their first six attempts. But Jevon Carter sank two and Ayo Dosunmu sank one in a flurry over the final 1 minute, 27 seconds of the first quarter. Carter has struggled from distance of late but that hasn’t stopped his preferred approach of launching open 3-pointers in transition. His second make fit that description. Nevertheless, the Bulls finished just 7-for-25 from beyond the arc.

—DeRozan recorded four assists before posting his first points, which came on two free throws with 3:04 left in the first half. DeRozan missed his first four field goals before making his first at the 1:14 mark of the second quarter. DeRozan has talked about wanting to get others involved early and then becoming more aggressive late if the game calls for that. But with Zach LaVine and Vucevic out, the Bulls could’ve used more offense from DeRozan early, even if he drew effusive praise for how he’s playing from Donovan. Case in point: He scored 10 points in the third as the Bulls got back into the game. And then DeRozan scored 11 points in the fourth, closing out the game in style.

The Bulls placed six scorers in double figures.

“It makes my job easier going into the fourth quarter,” DeRozan said. “Those guys look to me to close out the game. Sometimes not necessarily scoring but playmaking and trying to make the right decisions. It’s fun. There’s never a game where I feel like I gotta get up X amount of shots or whatever. I trust those guys. And I know when they give me the look, it’s time for me to do my part.”

Alex Caruso posted his 200th steal in his 134th game as a Bull, per the team’s public relations staff. Only Michael Jordan (311), Wilbur Holland (282), Kris Dunn (245), Ron Artest (230) and Scottie Pippen (201) posted more steals in their first 134 games with the franchise.

Trae Young entered having tied Oscar Robertson’s NBA record of seven straight games with at least 30 points and 10 assists. Young, guarded by Caruso plenty, finished with 21 points and 13 assists. His streak ended.

—Drummond posted his second 20-point game as a Bull and first 20-point/20-rebound game since Jan.31, 2021 as a member of the Cavaliers. It’s the 45th 20-20 game of Drummond’s career, tying Bob Lanier for 15th-most in NBA history. He finished with a monster night of 24 points, 25 rebounds, three steals and two blocks and shared a hug with his mother in the crowd after the game. Drummond shot 11-for-13.

—After shooting 0-for-8 from 3-point range on Saturday against the Cavaliers, Coby White missed all seven of his 3-point attempts on Tuesday. White has been playing with a sore wrist on his shooting hand that he tapes, but he refuses to use the issue as an excuse. And never fear: White still finished with 19 points and five assists, proving again how he can make an impact when not shooting well. And Ayo Dosunmu stepped up in his scoring absence with 19 points and a huge offensive rebound late.

“I like the shots he’s taking,” Donovan said of White. “His 3 isn’t going, but he’s impacting the game with the other things he’s doing.”

—Caruso and DeRozan made the defining plays down the stretch. Caruso sank a big 3-pointer and took a charge on Dejounte Murray. DeRozan used elite footwork for an up-and-under move for a huge hoop late. DeRozan doesn’t always show a lot of emotion, but he did after this basket.

Donovan walked off the court with DeRozan following the victory. When asked about the moment, Donovan launched into an impassioned speech about DeRozan’s professionalism and buy-in.

“I appreciate him. He’s a consummate professional,” Donovan said. “The thing I love about him is he’ll do whatever he’s gotta do to help the team. In conversations with him about us having to play faster and him to get up the floor, he does what you ask him to do.

“He’s an elite closer. And he’s been that way for his career. When the game slows down, you try to get him in areas of the floor where he does what he does. But the unselfishness and sacrifice for him for 36 minutes of trying to get off the ball, advance the ball, help us play fast, get those other guys involved, generate shots for those guys and still keep his head in the game, it speaks to his greatness.

“I just told him I appreciate all he does. He’s not only closing out the game at the end. He’s also getting everybody else involved and playing stylistically in a way that’s best for those guys. To his greatness, he can play a lot of different ways. For as long as I’ve coached, you come across guys who are really unique and special. And he’s really special as it relates to not only being an elite talent and probably a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he just wants to win. And he can see the big picture of what we need to do.”

Asked what the moment meant to him, DeRozan was equally eloquent.

“I never take anything for granted. I’ve had great coaches throughout my career who have allowed me and trusted me to be me,” DeRozan said. “Whatever I was asked, I try to do to the best of my ability. To have a Coach like that trust in you, it definitely feels good. You just want to give it back with the respect of the game right back to him.”

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