Dosunmu shakes off mistakes, dishes Bulls to win over Pacers

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu dunks in front of Indiana Pacers forward Torrey Craig  during the second half in Indianapolis, Friday. Dosunmu dished out 14 assists as the Bulls beat the Pacers 122-115.

    Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu dunks in front of Indiana Pacers forward Torrey Craig during the second half in Indianapolis, Friday. Dosunmu dished out 14 assists as the Bulls beat the Pacers 122-115. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/4/2022 10:10 PM

After committing 2 painful turnovers in the final minute of an overtime loss in Toronto on Thursday, Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu felt like he was about to be grounded.

"It's like one of those times where you get in trouble in school, now you don't know how your parents are going to react," Dosunmu said. "He (coach Billy Donovan) called me this morning, he was like, 'Ayo, let me talk to you.' I'm thinking like he was going to be upset of course.

 

"But he was like, 'Ayo, what did you learn from yesterday?' I told him I picked up my dribble on the baseline and just having better court awareness at the end of a game. He was like, 'Cool, you got it.' And I'm like, 'That's it?'"

Yes, that was it. Dosunmu was back in the starting point guard role Friday at Indiana and dished out a career-high 14 assists in the Bulls' 122-115 victory. Center Nikola Vucevic was on the receiving end of most of those passes, piling up 36 points and 17 rebounds.

"So just that exchange right there makes me want to come out here and go through a wall for (Donovan) and compete for him because I know he believes in me," Dosunmu continued.

Well, the South Side native didn't exactly run through a brick wall, but may have done even better to get the clinching basket.

Coming out of a timeout, Dosunmu got the ball on the wing, outside the 3-point line. As he started to move, Pacers defender Oshae Brissett glanced to his left looking out for a screen. There was no screen, though. Dosunmu hit the accelerator and flew down the lane for a huge one-hand jam that put the Bulls up 120-115 with 16.3 seconds left.

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Donovan said they came up with that play because the Pacers were working so hard to deny DeMar DeRozan (31 points).

"Coach, he knew the way Indiana was playing, they were denying the ball," Dosunmu said. "Of course late game, a lot of teams know where the ball is going to. So he just told me when I get downhill, try to hand it off to (DeRozan), but if they deny it, then just turn the corner.

"Originally when I came out of the time out, I told Vuc, 'Be ready.' But (Terry) Taylor, he stayed back and I had the lane. So I would say, that was my adrenaline, that was the best play to make."

Both teams were short-handed Friday. Beyond the long-term injuries, the Bulls were missing Zach LaVine (back spasms) and Coby White (adductor strain). Donovan said White wanted to play, but was turned down by the medical staff.

Indiana was missing starters Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner, plus backup center Goga Bitadze. So the Pacers essentially used the 6-foot-5 Taylor -- an undrafted rookie from Austin Peay playing in his eight NBA game -- at center.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Needless to say, the 6-10 Vucevic had a pretty good height advantage. The Bulls won the rebounds 43-37, a night after they were smaller at most every matchup against Toronto.

"Sometimes it's harder because they crowd you, they move around, you have to work extra hard to get (the ball)," Vucevic said. "So it's different, you're not really used to playing against smaller guys.

"Tonight what we really did well, it wasn't just straight post-ups for me where I have to go two, three dribbles to get to the rim. It was a lot of seals out of ball movement. I was able to seal in the paint and just turn and score, so a lot of my points were really just easy."

In the last four games, Dosunmu has dished out 14, 8, 9 and 11 assists, a nice feat considering he played mostly off the ball at Illinois. DeRozan added 7 assists and the Bulls had 30 as a team.

The Bulls jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the start, but Indiana's Caris Levert scored 22 of his 42 points in the first quarter and the Pacers never went away.

With this victory, Donovan will clinch the all-star coaching assignment if the Bulls can beat Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. If the Bulls lose and Miami beats Charlotte on Saturday, it would go to the Heat's Erik Spoelstra.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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