The Chicago Bulls hosted the undefeated Utah Jazz on Saturday night for a good check-in on how legit the Bulls really are this season. There was plenty of good defense being played on both sides, and the score stayed pretty tight all game long. At the end of the night, though, it was the Bulls walking away with a 107-99 victory to move to 5-1 on the season.
The Set Up
The Bulls were undefeated on the season until a heartbreaking 104-103 loss against the New York Knicks on Thursday. Still, they came into Saturday's matchup an impressive 4-1 on the season. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz entered the contest as the NBA's only remaining undefeated team at 4-0.
Of course, there are other storylines besides records. The Bulls lost starting power forward Patrick Williams—likely for the season—due to a dislocated wrist he suffered in the Bulls' loss to the Knicks. Meanwhile, the Jazz have a 7-foot-1 center in Rudy Gobert averaging 18 and 17.8 per game. It wasn't an ideal time to lose a player from the Bulls' already thin depth in the frontcourt.
The Jazz started capitalizing on their size advantage early as the Bulls started 6-foot-4 Javonte Green alongside Nikola Vucevic. Gobert had four quick points to start off, and he finished the first quarter with four points and seven boards.
For the Bulls, Zach LaVine was more aggressive early on than we have seen this season. He got off six shots in the first quarter and helped bring the Bulls back into the game as momentum was swinging toward the Jazz. Speaking of getting shots off, there were probably too many shots by Vucevic early with Gobert on him. Vucevic ended the first quarter with one point on 0/5 shooting.
On the other end, DeMar DeRozan seemed to be playing with a little better flow as opposed to forcing shots up. Donovan Mitchell and Lonzo Ball each had nine in the first quarter, and the Bulls got off to a 25-24 lead. Maybe the most interesting part of the first quarter was seeing Tony Bradley, Derrick Jones, Jr, and Ayo Dosunmu in action. It was Jones Jr.'s first appearance of the season.
Once the second quarter got started, DeRozan was cooking from mid-range. He worked his way up to 16 points at the end of the first half on an efficient 6/11 shooting.
Meanwhile, Gobert continued to be a problem for which the Bulls didn't have a solution on the glass. Vucevic had a rough first half and looked incredibly outmatched by both Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, posting just six points on 2/8 shooting and a +/- of -16.
Shooting was cold for both teams in the first half, but things started clicking for the Jazz in the second quarter. Well, things mostly started clicking for Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz's star even banked in a long three on his way to 22 first-half points. As the halftime buzzer sounded, the Jazz had a 57-54 lead.
DeRozan continued his great performance once the third quarter started. By the time the third quarter ended, DeRozan had 24 points in 27 minutes. The problem for the Bulls continued to be Vucevic, who missed all five of his shots in the third quarter. Luckily, Tony Bradley came to the rescue. Bradley did a great job in the third matching up with Gobert. The biggest red flag heading into the fourth was that the Bulls still couldn't shoot from deep as they dropped below 20% from beyond the arc. Still, they scored 25 while holding the Jazz to just 15 points, so they went into the fourth with a 79-72 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulls came through when they needed to in order to stay on top of the game. In eight fourth-quarter minutes, DeRozan scored eight more points. LaVine made some clutch shots, and the Bulls were able to pull away with the victory despite the Jazz's continued fight all game long. At the end of the game, the Bulls were the 107-99 victors, knocking off the last undefeated team in the NBA.
DeRozan Digging Deep
DeMar DeRozan has had an interesting start to his Bulls career. He hit big shots in the first five games, but he has also paced the team in shots taken, and he wasn't very efficient doing so. He was shooting the ball in the low 40s in terms of percentage.
On Saturday, however, in the biggest game of this (very) young season, DeRozan had his best performance. He had 32 points in 35 minutes on 59.1% shooting. As the game got started, it was apparent DeRozan was forcing the issue a little less than he had been in the last few games. However, when the Bulls needed him to step up, he did so in a big way. Every time the Jazz were gathering momentum, there was DeRozan knocking down a mid-range jumper to keep the Bulls in the game.
Next Man Up Mentality
Losing Patrick Williams for the season is a tough blow for the Bulls. Still, they need to find a way to stay competitive in games without him. Having lost the starting power forward, both Tony Bradley and Derrick Jones Jr. had their numbers called early. Both performed well in their limited minutes.
Jones Jr. had four points, three boards, three blocks, and one steal in 19 minutes. Bradley had two points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 14 minutes. They had the best +/- postings on the team for the night. It was looking like both Bradley and Jones Jr. were going to be garbage-minutes players for the Bulls this year. This game may lead to more minutes for them, though.
What's On Tap Next?
Next up, the 5-1 Chicago Bulls will visit the 2-4 Boston Celtics on Monday, November 1 at 6:30 PM CT. While the Celtics have gotten off to a poor start, this is still a team led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown—two dynamic scorers on the wing, which could spell trouble for the Bulls. Plus, they'll be hungry for their first home win of the season. Let's see what LaVine and the Bulls have in store for us then. For now, enjoy a great Bulls W, Bulls Nation.
Check out the Bulls On Tap podcast for further postgame reaction as well as Chicago basketball analysis and commentary all season.