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Bulls Undefeated Season Starts Behind Zach LaVine’s 34 Points

The Bulls won their season opener for the the first time since 2016 thanks to Zach LaVine leading the way and contributions from several new faces.

Zach LaVine Bulls Pistons
Photo: ChicagoBulls/Twitter

The Chicago Bulls are undefeated during the 2021-22 NBA season. Don’t worry about the context. Just relish in the fact that the statement is true. For the first time since 2016, the Chicago Bulls have won their first game of the season. The game was tight from the start—perhaps tighter than it should have been with the Detroit Pistons—but the result was the desired one: a W for the Bulls.

The Set Up

Fact: The Chicago Bulls have not lost since May 15. There has been legitimate hype surrounding a Chicago Bulls season for the first time since perhaps 2014. It started out with the Bulls going out and acquiring Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline last season. It was a big move, but it did not seem like there would be much else done to rework the roster.

Then, it all happened. The Bulls definitely didn’t tamper and got Lonzo Ball to run the point, and they brought in DeMar DeRozan to round out their starting five. Alex Caruso came on board to fill the sixth-man role. Of course, there were more moves, but the stage was set—the Bulls looked legit for the first time in a long time.

Rolling into Wednesday night’s opener visiting the Pistons, the Bulls were coming off an undefeated preseason slate. While preseason obviously comes with an asterisk, it still felt like the Bulls could truly compete this year.

The Summary

The Pistons had to take the floor without Cade Cunningham, and a 20-52 team last year seemed ripe for the Bulls to mop the floor with. I had visions of a blowout full of high-flying LaVine dunks, jaw-dropping assists from Ball, and a seamless game from DeRozan showing his fit with this team. Instead, from the start, the Bulls’ offense came out flat. In fact, for the game, the Bulls only shot 43% from the field and 30% from deep for the game. Chicago only scored 14 in the first quarter and went into halftime losing 44-40.

Still, it never felt like the Bulls were going to lose. In previous years, this would be the exact type of game the Bulls would lose. This year, though, the Bulls were able to lean on having reliable players to close out the game. LaVine was able to take over, but it was not as laborious as it has been the past few seasons. Despite a couple of scares and a continued fight from a scrappy Pistons team, the Bulls closed it out and took the victory 94-88.

Familiar Friends and New-Guy Numbers

We have been used to seeing Zach LaVine fill up the stat sheet, but this may have been one of the more effortless performances we have seen from him: 34 points in 35 minutes on 11/17 shooting and an impressive 11/11 from the free-throw line. Given LaVine has never averaged over six free throws per game, those free-throw figures seem like a great sign. It’s almost as if surrounding LaVine with competent offensive players opens up the floor.

Patrick Williams had a very Patrick Williams-ish game as he recovers from his ankle sprain. In 28 minutes, he had six points on 2/3 shooting. Vucevic had a double-double by halftime and finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but he only shot 33% (7/21) from the field. It was great to see him featured and playing aggressively. The shots just need to fall, and they will.

As for Chicago’s new featured players, DeRozan led the team in minutes (38) and had 17 points and seven rebounds on 8/17 shooting along with three steals. Ball had 12 points, six boards, and four assists. He had some hiccups and wound up with four turnovers, but it was still clear to see that Ball running the point is—roughly—a million times better than Tomas Satoransky and Coby White. Caruso may not have contributed much on the offensive side of things, but he had two blocks and four steals on the defensive end.

Meanwhile, the rookie—Ayo Dosunmu—played 11 minutes and put up eight shots during that time. He had seven points and probably feels relieved to have his first game over with. Some of the rookie mistakes, like missing a layup or having an unforced turnover, will work themselves out.

What’s On Tap Next?

The Chicago Bulls, currently tied for the first overall seed in the Eastern Conference, have their home opener on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans. The opening tip will be at 7:00 PM CT as Lonzo Ball prepares to make his old team regret letting the Bulls (definitely not by tampering) steal him away. Get pumped, Bulls Nation, and #CrackUm.

Check out the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction as well as Chicago basketball analysis and commentary all season.

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Bulls Writer for OnTapSportsNet. Author of Extraordinary Girl, available on Amazon and at other select retailers.

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