Chicago Bulls' high assist total more about mindset than right lineup
The Chicago Bulls' offense was all about sharing and caring in the second preseason game.
Things fell apart in the fourth quarter, but before that the Bulls posted impressive numbers. They scored 107 points through three quarters, had 34 assists (more than they had in any regular-season game last year) and led New Orleans by 21 points.
Tomas Satoransky got the start at point guard Wednesday, so he must be the reason the offense hummed like a transformer, right?
Well, it's not that simple. Satoransky finished with 8 assists, tying Otto Porter Jr. for team high. But Satoransky lucked into some of his assists.
He was credited with assists on all 4 Zach LaVine 3-pointers, 2 of which came directly off inbound passes. Anyone could have done that, if we're being honest.
What worked really well for the Bulls on Wednesday was they executed their multi-ballhandler scheme and consistently pushed the pace with their heads up. They passed ahead and generally kept making the pass to the nearest open teammate. The habit became contagious, and they ended up with a large number of open looks.
"I think the ball was popping," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said after Thursday's practice at the Advocate Center. "It's something we've been talking about. Our point-five was good. The ball was moving. Our spacing was good. We had 4 turnovers in our first six possessions, but we settled down and started playing really good basketball."
By point-five, Boylen means the goal of making a move with the ball -- either pass, shoot or drive -- within half a second of catching it.
Porter did a nice job of that. His assists were a mix of throwing it ahead and keeping the ball moving. Kris Dunn added 5 assists, while Lauri Markkanen and Luke Kornet had 4 each.
Maybe the Bulls' strong showing for three quarters was more about an unselfish attitude than any particular lineup.
Rookie Coby White, who seemed to forget he had teammates in Monday's preseason opener, got into the act with 3 assists against New Orleans and talked after the game about how a ball that moves tends to find the basket.
"There's energy when the ball moves," Boylen said. "There's an unselfishness, there's a feeling when the ball's popping. It's pretty cool he kind of figured it out already. Some guys think it's cool when you pound it 12 times. So he's figuring it out."
The Bulls' best assist Wednesday probably was delivered by Thad Young. He caught a pass in the lane and without looking shoveled it backward to Porter, who was standing at the 3-point line. The pass hit Porter in the chest and he buried the 3.
Denzel Valentine did some good work in screen-and-rolls, connecting with Kornet for a cutting dunk and with rookie Daniel Gafford on an alley-oop dunk.
LaVine picked up just 1 assist, but he did some good work on the receiving end, hitting 10 of 16 shots and scoring 28 points in 24 minutes.
"It felt like we came out with a little more aggression," LaVine said after the game. "The more we play together, I feel the ball will pop around the perimeter better. We did what we had to do. The first group went out there and took the challenge. Getting up and down and playing fast, I feel like that's what we do."
There's not much point in discussing the Bulls' point-guard competition, since there is none. They brought in Satoransky and White this summer to play the point. They're hoping to find a new home for Dunn but could end up using Dunn and White together on the second unit.
The Bulls will play their third of five preseason games Friday at Indiana, then move on to Toronto on Sunday.
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