Bulls top Jazz, make early-season statement

Undersized and down Patrick Williams in the starting lineup, the Bulls still had some rebounding issues, but they also had the cheat code to counter: physicality on defense, running on offense and some unlikely role players stepping up.

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Nature is always unpredictable, but not in this case.

There’s no chance any of the Bulls’ starters will have a growth spurt.

This roster is what it is.

Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Javonte Green, filling in for injured Patrick Williams, have an average height near 6-6, and that’s on a good day.

No wonder the concern going into this season was rebounding.

And it looked like it would be rearing its ugly head again Saturday with the unbeaten Jazz visiting the United Center. Utah was fourth in rebound differential at plus-6.2 per game; the Bulls were 29th at minus-7.2 per game.

Then disruption happened.

The Bulls (5-1) got back to their counter of being small, and that meant getting into the opposition with physicality, running in transition, being all-hands and running the long-range Jazz off the three-point line in winning 107-99.

And it wasn’t just the recipe for the smallish starting lineup, either, as the possible season-ending injury to Williams opened up more playing time for Derrick Jones Jr., Tony Bradley and Ayo Dosunmu.

It was Jones who got the biggest bump, going from a series of DNPs to putting in 19 solid minutes, scoring four points, grabbing three rebounds and blocking three shots. He finished at plus-18.

“He’s been great,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “The injury to Patrick is unfortunate, but it’s probably going to open up more opportunity for [Jones], as well. He’s done a really good job of keeping himself ready.’’

Bradley wasn’t bad, either, finishing a plus-19 with four rebounds.

“It was great getting an opportunity to get on the floor,’’ Bradley said. “I’m just looking to play my role. I just tried to bring some physicality and some energy. Whenever my name is called, I’m going to be ready. This was a collective effort.’’

One that Donovan wants his entire rotation to not only remember, but duplicate, as he came out feeling like the Bulls just put together their best game of the young season.

“This was the most consistent game that we played to an identity,’’ Donovan said. “We ran. We played with really good pace. This is how we want to play. I thought this was one of our better games from start to finish. The consistency was there of how we want to play.

“I don’t want to get wrapped up in one game of an 82-game schedule, but for us, these experiences are good as far as growing together.’’

While the Bulls did get outrebounded 54-45, they also held the Jazz to just 11-for-38 (29%) from three-point range. DeRozan led the Bulls with 32 points, and LaVine chipped in with 26.

And for one night, there was very little dwelling on rebounding, as the Bulls now head out for a two-game trip to Boston, then Philadelphia.

“We’re just going to have to do it as a team, box out, make sure we secure the rebounds,’’ Vucevic said. “We understand that we’re undersized, and we just have to do a better job at that.

“Just have to be more disciplined.’’

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