With a trip to the playoffs being the reward — or at least a shot in a play-in game — the Chicago Bulls appear to be making an extra effort. Nowhere was that more evident that Monday’s 102-96 road win over the Boston Celtics.
“We’re in a fight for our lives,” Bulls guard Garrett Temple told reporters. “Every detail, every play matters. Guys are playing really hard, and I like that.”
In each of the previous two games, the Bulls (24-33) have held their opponents to less than 100 points. They also scored 16 points off Celtics turnovers on Monday.
They currently sit in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, with the March trade for All-Star center Nikola Vucevic starting to pay dividends. They are even 2-1 since losing standout guard Zach LaVine to the league’s health and safety list.
“Obviously, we lost a big piece in Zach, 28 (points) a game. But if we’re able to guard like we’re capable of — like (Monday) — we have enough on the other end to score,” Temple said. “Vooch did a great job for us keeping us in the game in the first half offensively. And then it opens up shots for Coby White, myself. But I think the biggest thing is if we defend, we grind, we guard like we’re capable of, then we can win any game we play.”
In recent days, the Billy Donovan-coached club has been proving all that.
“I don’t mean this maybe how it’s going to come out, but the trade kind of really messed up our team a little,” Donovan said. “What I mean by that is everybody kind of got out of their normal rotation, how they were being used. I think we lost a little bit of our competitiveness not because we didn’t want to compete and play hard, but it was really more guys had to figure out their roles. And when you are thinking a lot, it takes away that edge.
“I really think it took a toll on us. I give our guys a lot of credit for staying the course and trying to show the resolve to keep sticking with it to try to figure things out even though we had some very disappointing and heartbreaking losses. I do think they are starting to understand how to play with each other.”