McGraw: Beverley helped unlock Bulls' offensive potential

The Bulls have gone 5-3 since the all-star break. That's not exactly resetting the Eastern Conference order, but it's been good enough to get them back into play-in position.

And there are signs they're starting to play well. In the last eight games, the Bulls rank sixth in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating.

Veteran point guard Patrick Beverley was supposed to aid the defense, but he's also helped make the offense more efficient. The Bulls are shooting 52.2%, second best in the league, since Beverley arrived.

Remember when Beverley promised to make Zach LaVine's job easier? "You know me, I'm going to be on Zach LaVine's (butt), I'm going to give him all the energy he needs. Destroy people," he said on the Pat Bev Podcast.

Since the break, LaVine has averaged 31.4 points, while shooting 58.1% overall, 50% from 3-point range and 90% at the foul line.

"He's been good for all of us," LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. "I was already trending in that direction before Pat got here. Pat is a veteran point guard, knows how to run their offense, understands situations and brings the best out of people, not just me.

"We're very thankful to have him. You can see the impact he's made already."

Coming off road wins in Denver and Houston, the Bulls have an important week ahead with home games against Sacramento, Minnesota and Miami. With 15 games left in the regular season, the Bulls need their newfound efficiency to continue.

"You have to look at the standings," LaVine said. "We understand the positioning, we understand the standings and every game is important.

"I think we're playing the right way. We have the offensive capability to be in the top 10 for sure, we've just got to show it. I think the consistency of us playing the way we have over the last couple of weeks has to be sustainable during this last stretch."

Alex Caruso also deserves credit for bringing some life to the starting lineup. Caruso has been among the league leaders in net rating since the break and on Saturday in Houston, he was credited with 3 steals and 2 blocked shots in the final seven minutes.

The second unit hasn't been as good with Coby White, Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu playing together, so there is room for improvement.

Coach Billy Donovan tried to explain the offensive improvement after Monday's practice.

"I think it's a few things. I think everybody's making quicker decisions," he said. "When Zach's really decisive, whether it's driving, shooting it or finding somebody, that's really helped. The other things that stand out is we've gotten more offensive rebounds and we've gotten to the free-throw line."

Beverley had his best game in a Bulls uniform against Houston, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. LaVine has shot better then 50% from the field in seven of the last eight games.

After this week's three home games, the Bulls have a two-game series with Philadelphia, then head to the West Coast for three games in four days. The road to the play-in tournament won't be a breeze.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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