DeMar DeRozan led the Chicago Bulls in scoring for the third time in four games Monday as the team recovered from an early 19-point deficit to rout the visiting Boston Celtics.
While the veteran’s 25 points went a long way for Chicago, the latest solid effort from Nikola Vucevic was not to be overlooked. The center had 18 points and 23 rebounds for his second double-double of the season while adding five assists.
For Chicago, which will look to build on Monday’s success when it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, the stat line was another sign of Vucevic’s versatility.
And to think, the 6-foot-10 All-Star hardly has shown his range in the season’s first week.
Thus far, 10 of Vucevic’s 14.5 shots per game have originated from inside the 3-point arc. A career 34.8 percent shooter from deep, Vucevic is shooting 27.8 percent so far this season as he pivots his offensive approach.
“It’s all about getting into the paint and creating shots from there,” Vucevic said. “I’m not a big analytics guy, but the numbers do show when you get to the paint and create shots from there, it’s a much higher percentage. It’s just common sense. The defense collapses and you make one or two extra passes and they’re in rotation and you’re going to get wide open shots.”
The Bulls and Pacers have split their past 10 games, but Chicago has won five of the past six in the series.
After snapping a 12-game skid that dated to last season with a nine-point victory against Detroit on Saturday, the Pacers weren’t so smooth on Monday in Philadelphia.
Indiana fell 120-106 to the 76ers in the opener of a five-game road trip. The Pacers produced a quartet of double-figure scorers, as Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 19 points to go with 10 assists.
Jalen Smith also recorded a double-double, his second in a row, contributing 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Isaiah Jackson struggled to stay disciplined defensively against 76ers big man Joel Embiid, who scored 26 points. Still, Jackson credited the experience for helping him grow for the team’s next game and beyond.
“My goal is just to be one of the best defenders in the league, and every game is a step toward that,” Jackson said. “This is a learning experience, man.”
Indiana’s 42.2 percent shooting night included a 12-of-44 effort from long range. Haliburton and Buddy Hield (18 points) sank three 3-pointers apiece. Rookie Bennedict Mathurin, meanwhile, was 1-for-7 from deep but scored 15 of his 17 points after the break.
“My shots weren’t falling and (in) the second half, I felt like I came out with a different energy, a different attitude,” Mathurin said. “And my shots were going in.”
The Bulls hold a 102-97 advantage in the all-time series. After Wednesday, the teams are not scheduled to meet again until Jan. 24 in Indianapolis.
Zach LaVine had 19 points on Monday, playing his second game of the season after missing the first two. The team is managing the All-Star’s workload following offseason surgery on his left knee.
–Field Level Media