Following Donovan's preseason strategy pays off for Bulls

During their two-game winning streak, the Bulls have hit season highs in assists, shot well from 3-point range and created much of their offensive success by getting into the paint, then kicking it outside for catch-and-shoot jumpers.

That formula might sound familiar. It's pretty much exactly what coach Billy Donovan described on media day as the goals for this season.

With their two In-Season Tournament consolation games this week - at home against Charlotte on Wednesday and at San Antonio on Friday - the Bulls (7-14) have a chance to keep heading in the right direction, maybe even dream about hitting .500 down the road.

"(This was) how we need to play, how we need to share the ball, how we need to help each other defensively," DeMar DeRozan said after the victory over New Orleans. "These two games should be a blueprint of us just feeding off that."

The catalyst last week was Coby White, who hit 8-of-13 3-pointers against the Pelicans, finishing with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.

Over the last eight games, White has knocked down more 3-pointers than any NBA player, going 39 for 78. He plays point guard and generally brings the ball upcourt, but Donovan raved about the success the Bulls had when White gives up the ball, then waits at the 3-point line. When he gets it back, he's generally knocking down the 3-pointer or making something happen off the dribble.

"His numbers are unbelievable in catch and shoot," Donovan said. "He has to be aggressive in those situations. The more he's playing against closeouts and being aggressive either for himself or somebody else is good. He needs to be attacking."

These last two games have raised a possibility: When the Bulls keep the ball moving, maybe they can be a good 3-point shooting team after all.

The Bulls started the season with dismal long-range shooting. In the last two games they attempted at least 35 shots from 3-point land and connected on at least 35%, something that's happened just four times total this season.

Another good sign is they've used different methods to get the ball in the paint. In the win over Milwaukee last Thursday, they played through center Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.

Against New Orleans. Vucevic had a quiet game. But DeRozan returned from an ankle injury to produce 24 points and 10 assists.

This Bulls team is clearly at its best when sharing the ball and not relying on any one scorer. DeRozan has been renowned as an iso king through most of his career, but he made the adjustment against the Pelicans and has improved his catch-and-shoot efficiency.

"His greatest strength in my opinion is his mind, his vision and his understanding of the game," Donovan said of DeRozan. "He knows how to manipulate things. We always try to keep potential assists and how many shots guys are generating for each other and he's really, really good at that.

"He knows how when to go to his spots and shoot it, he knows when to pass it. He makes the game easy for guys when he does those things."

Of course, prior to these last two games, the Bulls were absolutely miserable. Zach LaVine skipped the last two games to rest a sore foot and is listed out for Wednesday. On the injury report, Alex Caruso (toe) is probable and Torrey Craig (knee) questionable. Caruso sat out the second half of the New Orleans game.

It's possible LaVine just sits out for a while, but he'll likely have to come back at some point and play well if he wants to raise his trade value. That's when things could get really interesting for the Bulls.

In the short term, the Bulls need to keep the good times rolling against Charlotte. Just looking like a group that was having fun was a nice improvement from the early season doldrums.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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