Bulls' Zach LaVine catches fire, Nikola Vučević dominates in rout of 76ers

10 observations: LaVine catches fire in rout of 76ers originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Fresh off one of their best wins of the season against the Brooklyn Nets, the Chicago Bulls kept the good times rolling with a 126-112 victory at the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night.

The contest featured plenty of headline contributions, from Zach LaVine's 11 3-pointers, to Nikola Vučević's dominant triple-double, to Patrick Williams' 16 third quarter points and beyond.

The result is the Bulls improving to 18-21 on the season.

Here are 10 observations:

1. Joel Embiid did not get a chance to build on his career 12-0 record against the Bulls on Friday, as a sore left foot sidelined him. In the five-time All-Star's stead, Doc Rivers rolled with a small starting frontcourt of the 6-foot-7 Tobias Harris and 6-5 PJ Tucker — on paper, a delectable matchup for Vučević.

In practice, the Bulls' big man took advantage.

By the three-minute mark of the second quarter, Vučević had secured his 20th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. By night's end, he had amassed the fifth triple-double of his NBA career (second with the Bulls) with 19 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Bulls featured Vučević on the interior early and often, where he had his way with the smaller Tucker and Harris. And true to form, once he got rolling inside, some hot shooting, active defense and connective passing followed to the tune of 10 dimes, a 2-for-3 line from 3-point land, and two blocks.

2. The Bulls trailed by as many as 13 points early in the second quarter and were exhibiting plenty of defensive fault lines, particularly guarding the 3-point line. Philadelphia made six 3-pointers in the first quarter — getting two apiece from Tyrese Maxey, Georges Niang and De'Anthony Melton — and begin the game 7-for-13, overall.

Still, in encouraging fashion, the Bulls weathered that storm, engineered a run of their own, and eventually led 59-55 at halftime, closing the second quarter on a 28-11 run after falling behind 44-31. The Bulls dominated that frame overall, shooting 76.5 percent and exploiting Philadelphia's famously porous transition defense with eight fastbreak points.

3. Then, the avalanche came during a third quarter in which the Bulls pulled ahead by as many as 18 points. As a team, they won the frame 40-29, shooting 62.5 percent from the field and 8-for-12 (66.7 percent) from 3-point range, handing out a whopping 12 assists against just one turnover.

But the headliners were LaVine and Patrick Williams.

4. LaVine must have set off smoke alarms in the annals of Wells Fargo Center with his infernal shooting in the third, making his first five attempts from long range out of the halftime locker room to at one point make him 8-for-8 for the game.

LaVine finished the quarter with 19 points and the game with 41, two off of his season-high of 43. The one-word of description of his night would have to be efficient. He accrued his 41 points on 14-for-19 shooting, including a staggering 11-for-13 from 3-point range. LaVine is never shy about a heat-check, but what was so captivating about the performance is that most of his attempts came within the flow of the offense, a testament to his devastating ability off the catch.

Somehow, 11 is only the second-most 3-pointers LaVine — or any Bulls player in history, for that matter — has made in a game, trailing only his 49-point, 13 3-pointer performance in Charlotte back in November 2019.

5. Williams, meanwhile, scored the Bulls' first seven points of the third quarter after going scoreless on just two field goal attempts in the entire first half. His confidence only swelled from there. The third-year forward scored 16 of his eventual 18 points in the third, and flashed his full arsenal of skills in the process by going 2-for-2 from 3-point range, slamming home putback and fastbreak dunks, and knocking down a midrange jumper.

It is also worth noting that, in the game, Williams pulled down six rebounds and supplied a solid first line of defense on James Harden, who without Embiid notched 17 points and 11 assists, but with a woeful 4-for-17 shooting line.

6. As if it was not enough that Alex Caruso (left ankle sprain) missed his fifth game of the season and Javonte Green (right knee soreness) his 11th, Derrick Jones Jr. left the contest in the second quarter holding his right wrist after taking a hard fall while being called for a charge on Montrezl Harrell.

Fortunately, though, Jones returned late in the third quarter and finished a productive outing with eight points, three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes. As he did in Wednesday's win over the Nets, the spindly but explosive forward showed off his versatility and stay-ready approach by deftly finishing rolls to the basket, playmaking in the open floor, and starting the fourth quarter at small-ball center. His importance is amplified as long as Green is sidelined.

7. Coby White's shooting may be streaky, but he has a knack for making timely jumpers. After going scoreless through the first three quarters of the game, he drilled three 3-pointers in the fourth — and each of them came in moments the Bulls appeared to be hitting a lull with a sizable lead. The first gave the Bulls a 104-89 lead after the 76ers rattled off a 5-0 run; the second stretched the Bulls' advantage to 109-94 after the 76ers cut to 12 again; and the third made the score 118-108 with 2:30 to play after a Harden triple drew Philadelphia within seven.

In addition to those jumpers, White also provided solid individual defense and grabbed a contested rebound in a big spot. His improvements as a playmaker and defender have yielded subtle, albeit noticeable, results in recent weeks, leading Donovan to trust him enough to take on the lion's share of stretch-run minutes (10 in the fourth).

8. DeMar DeRozan finished the game with 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting. But take it as a refreshing sign that, for the second game in a row, the Bulls did not need his heroics to engineer a breakout offensive performance. The Bulls finished this one with 126 points on 57.1 percent shooting (20-for-34 from 3-point range) and 33 assists. They also required just two fourth quarter points from DeRozan to make the winning plays necessary down the stretch, although he did dime up a dagger 3-pointer for LaVine:

9. The Bulls' new nickname might have to be the streak-busters. This season, they've snapped a 12-game win streak by the Nets, a nine-gamer by the Celtics, and tonight, broke a 12-game losing streak to the 76ers that spans back to March 2019. This result also snaps an 11-game home win streak by Philadelphia.

10. What's more, the Bulls are now 7-5 against the top five seeds in the East: 2-1 against Boston, 2-0 against Brooklyn and Milwaukee, 0-3 against Cleveland, and 1-1 against Philadelphia. While still in the 10th spot of the standings for the time being, that dynamic, combined with a 7-3 record since December's meltdown in Minnesota, should inspire some optimism.

Next up: Back home to close a back-to-back against Lauri Markkanen and the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

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