Chicago Bulls: Identity being built after biggest win in years

Chicago Bulls (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bulls (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports) /

Monday night, the Chicago Bulls did something historically great.

After building a lead of 8-10 points in the first half only to watch the Boston Celtics erase it multiple times, the Bulls found themselves down by 19 points in the second half.

The starters looked off when this lead was built. Finally, Billy Donovan inserted his bench unit once again in the fourth quarter, and then some magic happened.

The Bulls’ bench erased a 19-point deficit and out-scored Boston 39-11 in the fourth quarter. Chicago ended up winning the game 128-114. This was largely an identity-building game for the entire team, but especially the bench.

These Chicago Bulls are establishing an identity that starts and ends with defense and hustle.

Earlier in the year, we saw Troy Brown Jr. play some off the bench. In the last couple of games, Donovan has elected to go with Derrick Jones Jr. in his place. Jones has rewarded Donovan with excellent defensive play and has become the perfect small ball reserve four.

Along with Jones, big man Tony Bradley has stepped up and given the Bulls strong minutes in the wake of Patrick Williams’ injury. Between he, Jones and Javonte Green, the Bulls have collectively made up for the void left by Williams.

It has been a group effort from those three guys to give the Bulls a lot of juice defensively.

While that trio played excellent ball, so did another one off the bench — rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu. The hometown kid poured in a career-high 14 points, and no bucket of his was bigger than the 3-pointer which gave the Bulls their first lead of the second half, completing the 19-point comeback.

Dosunmu not only shot perfect from the field, but put the clamps on defensively. He was tasked with guarding Jason Taytum a good portion of his time on the court, and in the second half his defense on Tatum helped Chicago get back into it.

The identity of this team has become very clear. They are a tough, grind-it-out type of team when it comes down to it. They are going to concentrate on defense first, and when they lose their way as they did in the first half Monday night, the bench stepped up.

The Bulls’ starters had a hard time slowing Boston down offensively, and it wasn’t until that second unit got some run in the fourth quarter that the Celtics started to go cold. Donovan has shown trust in the guys who reward their coach on the court. That’s been a big story this season.

Through adversity, it’s been the level of effort which has earned playing time for Donovan’s bench mob. Donovan only ran a 9-man squad against the Celtics, because he saw so much out of those four reserves — and we haven’t even talked about Alex Caruso yet.

Caruso had gone almost seven quarters looking a little different than he had earlier in the season. Then, he snapped out of it. We saw a couple of clutch shots out of him, as he totaled nine points to go with six assists, three boards, two steals and a block.

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This bench was truly remarkable in the win. Every one of them stayed in the game and kept pushing. Next up for the Bulls and their new-look bench mob is the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.