The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls have wavered somewhere between competent playoff team, and lottery-bound mess for most of the season. A big reason for this is Chicago's complete lack of capable three-point shooting, and that is why last night's victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 106-to-94 was so encouraging.
In a game where LeBron James was without super friends Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Bulls were out to prove that they still have Cleveland's number no matter who is suiting up.
After getting beat by seven points in the opening quarter, Fred Hoiberg made a serious effort to get the Bulls best shooters going. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott combined to shoot 80% in the second period. The general thought process is--the more these young players assert themselves, the better off the Bulls are in the short and long-term.
Rajon Rondo received yet another DNP. That allowed Michael Carter-Williams to make his third start. MCW played with a shocking amount of aggressiveness--as shown by his dominant dunk all over Jordan McRae. Carter-Williams is still awful at shooting, but he's willing to attack when given a downhill lane to the basket. Rondo's refusal to attempt to score even when teams play extremely far off of him has most likely led to his benching.
In the end, this game may have been more of a testament to the talents of Irving and Love. James scored 31 points but his team lost because of the absence of a legitimate secondary scoring option. The Bulls always play tough defense, and held Cleveland to 41% shooting on the night. The biggest improvement was no doubt the confidence of the Bulls younger players on the offensive end.
Chicago is dead-last in the NBA in three-point shooting. They attempt a pitiful 20.2 three-pointers per game, and to make matters worse, they also hit 31.2% of those shots--which is also worst in the league. But last night Chicago played like they had been possessed by the spirit of the Golden State Warriors. They attempted a whopping 30 three-pointers, while hitting 43.3% of them! If Hoiberg can get his players to continue to buy into a more modern offense, and value the outside shot, there's no telling how effective this team can be.
The Chicago Bulls play on January 7th against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center.