Nikola Vucevic, Bulls try for repeat performance vs. Hawks

Sports

Chicago Bulls leading scorer DeMar DeRozan offers a polite rebuttal at the suggestion the team has been buoyed by a Big Three.

Sure, DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic combined for 89 points in Monday’s 130-118 road win at Atlanta, but the Bulls still feel less than complete as they try to stretch their winning streak to five when they host the Hawks on Wednesday to complete a home-and-home set.

“It’s crazy because we’re still missing another key part, a couple of key parts to our team, the other starter, Lonzo (Ball), what he brings defensively and offensively,” DeRozan said. “This team, you’ve almost got to stack it up as a Big Four coming out there. We’re the veteran leaders of this team. It was on us to step up and play big, especially the three main guys did what they were supposed to do and everybody else fell in line.”

Facing a Hawks team missing at least a dozen players, many due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19, the Bulls rolled behind 35 points from DeRozan and 30 from LaVine. Ball, the team’s minutes leader, remained in health and safety protocols.

Vucevic, meanwhile, continued to show his versatility, becoming the first player in league history to finish with at least 24 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and four 3-pointers.

“It’s nice,” Vucevic said. “Obviously, I’m glad I played well, and I was able to have a good all-around game to help us win. But as far as that, it’s nice but I don’t necessarily care to be the only player to do it.”

During the winning streak, Vucevic is averaging 19.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 blocks on 50 percent shooting, including 44 percent from deep.

Monday’s victory snapped a three-game series losing streak to the Hawks for the Bulls. After Wednesday, the teams are set to meet Jan. 24 in Atlanta before closing the regular season series on Feb. 24 in Chicago.

Cam Reddish paced the depleted Hawks with 33 points, while Trae Young, who averaged a league-best 37.3 points in three games against Chicago last season, chipped in 29.

Young was cleared from health and safety protocols about 90 minutes before the game started.

“I’ve been up in the house and chilling, and it feels great to be playing basketball again,” Young said.

On Tuesday, Atlanta added to its COVID-19 inactives list, placing Bogdan Bogdanovic, Gorgui Dieng and Malik Ellison in the protocols.

“This is the world we live in right now,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said Monday. “We have to be ready for anything.”

Atlanta listed 13 players in COVID-19 protocols as of Tuesday afternoon and has worked to sign multiple players to hardship contracts in recent days.

“What the league has done is told us that we have to replace those players with a body so that we can continue to work and be as close to normal as possible,” McMillan said. “There is really nothing we can do. It’s very frustrating for all of us. As the league and the world is trying to continue on with life and continue on with working, we have to make these adjustments and try to do the best we can and work through it.”

–Field Level Media

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