Chicago Bulls: New lineup wrinkle makes defensive statement

Chicago Bulls (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bulls (Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports) /

Head coach Billy Donovan tried something new against the Los Angeles Clippers, in the team’s first of two games in L.A., on Sunday night. His Chicago Bulls starting five included Alex Caruso at the four, instead of Javonte Green.

In short, it worked.

The Bulls came out with some serious aggression on the defensive end, holding the Clippers to just 17 points on 33 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter. Most impressively, the Bulls forced a whopping 10 Clipper turnovers in the first period alone.

From the get-go, it was clear this new lineup wrinkle was a brilliant move. Caruso plays much bigger than he is and can matchup better with forwards. Meanwhile, Green’s energy off the bench picked up right where Caruso normally fills in.

The Chicago Bulls defense hounded Los Angeles all night en route to a big victory.

The Bulls held the Clippers to their second-lowest offensive output of the season, beating them by a score of 100-90. Chicago’s defense put the clamps on Los Angeles, holding the Clippers to just 35.8 percent shooting and forcing 19 turnovers for the game.

Back to the lineup decision, though, as Caruso finished with the team’s highest plus/minus at plus-16. He did a little of everything including seven points, nine rebounds, five assists, but most importantly, three steals and a block. Caruso continues to lead the NBA in steals this season and has been a menace, defensively.

Paul George scored 27 on the night, but shot just 7-for-25, with Caruso playing a large role in the rough shooting from George.

Back to Green again, who scored nine points and came up with a huge block late in the game. His energy was contagious coming off the bench, and you could really tell that the starting five benefited from Caruso in his place.

All in all, Donovan only used nine guys in this one, choosing not to play Alize Johnson and going with more of a small lineup. That worked, too, because the Clippers don’t present much of a threat at the five.

We can’t talk about this big win without giving credit to the stars of the night. DeMar DeRozan (35 points) and Zach LaVine (29 points) combined for 64 points in total, with the latter hitting six three pointers himself. DeRozan knocked down 10 of 11 free throws, too, proving to be aggressive in getting to the bucket.

This is a Clippers team that had won seven in a row prior to Sunday night. Needless to say, this was a statement game from Chicago. Coming off a drubbing by Golden State, the Bulls needed to rebound — and they did in a big way.

Related Story. Bulls: LaVine has dunk of the year candidate. light

At 9-4, the Bulls continue to show they are for real this season. They’re beating good teams, and doing it while being short-handed. Fortunately, Coby White is set to make his debut Monday against the Lakers. Then, it’s a few more days before we see Nikola Vucevic back. Once the Bulls get to full strength (albeit, without Patrick Williams this season), watch out.