Bulls beat Nuggets in home preseason opener

10 observations: Bulls beat Nuggets in home preseason opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls emerged victorious in the home preseason opener, defeating the Denver Nuggets 133-124 in double overtime at the United Center on Thursday night.

Here are 10 noteworthy observations from the game:

—For the second consecutive game, Billy Donovan started Coby White, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic. Donovan is still experimenting with his lineup, making adjustments throughout the game to maximize player combinations. He gave LaVine some minutes against second-unit players by taking him off the court early alongside Williams. Additionally, Ayo Dosunmu started the second half in place of White. The fact that White and Williams started in the first two games is worth highlighting.

—Donovan frequently emphasizes the importance of “paint attacks,” a phrase he has used so often that he could secure an endorsement deal with paint manufacturers Glidden or Behr. The Bulls followed his directive, with 14 of their first 16 points coming from the restricted area. This strategy led to open 3-pointers off kickouts, showcasing the team’s improvement in this area over the past two games.

—LaVine wasted no time asserting himself on offense, opting for inside attacks early on. Eight of his first 10 points were scored inside the restricted area. Among his highlights were a putback of his own missed breakaway layup and a dunk off a 2-on-0 fast break with DeRozan. The two players displayed impressive passing chemistry as they streaked downcourt before LaVine decided to finish with a powerful dunk.

—The Bulls’ unselfishness extended to their halfcourt passing as well. Torrey Craig passed up a good look at a corner 3-pointer, choosing to swing the ball to Jevon Carter for an even better 3-point opportunity. Carter capitalized on the pass and buried the shot. Ball movement and sharing the basketball have been key focal points of Donovan’s training camp.

—Ayo Dosunmu made the most of his opportunity in the second half, delivering an impactful performance in just 7 minutes and 29 seconds of play. He grabbed three offensive rebounds, displayed tenacious defense, and dished out a crafty assist leading to a LaVine layup.

—Nikola Jokic once again showcased his basketball prowess, posting 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists in just 18 minutes of first-half action. The two-time Most Valuable Player outplayed his good friend Nikola Vucevic, who got the better of him in their previous meeting in Denver last season. Vucevic started slowly but finished the first half strong with two impressive moves over Jokic.

—Unlike the Nuggets, who rested Jokic, Jamal Murray, and other starters in the second half, the Bulls kept their starters on the court for the initial 6 or 7 minutes of the third quarter. DeRozan and LaVine ended the game with 19 and 17 points, respectively. Notably, DeRozan went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line and attempted four 3-point shots, showcasing some versatility in his game.

—The Bulls continued their commitment to shooting more 3-pointers, attempting at least 30 long-range shots for the second consecutive game. Last season, they were the only team in the NBA not to reach this mark. Alex Caruso stood out, shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Caruso revealed that the coaches have encouraged him to be more “selfish” this season, reminding him not to pass up open shots.

—Patrick Williams, currently with only five rebounds in 41 minutes over two games, has been given a directive by management and the coaching staff to be more aggressive on the boards. However, he has yet to translate this into performance. Williams had a forgettable night, scoring only two points on just four shot attempts in 14 minutes of play.

—The Bulls’ defensive performance was a mixed bag. They capitalized on their defensive efforts, scoring 30 points off 28 turnovers. They ensured disciplined defense without fouling, not allowing the Nuggets to shoot free throws until the second half. Additionally, they controlled the rebounding department, denying the Nuggets any second-chance points. However, they struggled to contain the Nuggets’ offense, allowing them to shoot 50 percent from the field. Donovan even called two timeouts to address defensive mistakes.

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