Calling Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White the Bulls’ “Big Three” after their performance the last three games is going overboard, and LaVine isn’t one to use that term. (He prefers “pick your poison” to describe their play.)
But whatever the label, those three are whom the Bulls (29-39) will have to lean on in their final four regular-season games as they try to pull off a miracle and overtake the Pacers or Wizards for a play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.
The trio went to work again Sunday night in a one-sided 108-96 win in Detroit.
“I got it going early. Then they started doubling,” LaVine said. “My next instinct is to use me as a decoy — let them double me, hit Vooch [Vucevic] in the pocket, let him go to work. And eventually they start spraying out the threes for Coby. We’re scoring at all three levels, and once we got that going, it’s pretty much pick your poison.”
Is it LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh from their Heat days? Not even close. The Nets’ Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden? Please.
But there’s no denying the trio’s numbers during the Bulls’ three-game winning streak. They’ve combined for 209 points, with Vucevic averaging 25.3 per game, LaVine 24.3 and White 20. And two of the three games were against playoff-bound teams in the Hornets and Celtics.
“There’s 100 possessions [per game] on the offensive end of the floor — there’s a lot of shots that go up — and I think you’ve got to be balanced, because you never know what’s gonna happen,” coach Billy Donovan said. “And if they’re gonna double-team Vooch in the low post, he’s been unselfish enough to move the ball. Same thing with Zach.”
It also helps that while LaVine is capable of getting his own shot, seemingly from wherever he wants, White and Vucevic are finally understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to best play off each other. Donovan and his staff have focused on making sure that when the ball goes into Vucevic’s hands in the post, White is set at the top of the key or ball side, forcing his defender to choose between leaving White to help double-team Vucevic or leaving the post defender alone against the big man. White has been on a catch-and-shoot tear from the outside, so doubling up on Vucevic has not often been a good move for opponents.
The Bulls will need that to continue if they want to get past the Nets on Tuesday and Saturday, the Raptors on Thursday and the Bucks in the regular-season finale Sunday — although veteran forward Thad Young sees more to the story. While he thinks the offense from LaVine, Vucevic and White has been great, he says their defense is what matters if the Bulls are going to play extra basketball this season.
“Defensively, they’re all getting better throughout the course of the season, and they’re all continuing to compete,” Young said. “That’s what we need. When everybody sees our Big Three competing, then it just brings everybody else along, and our defense is what it needs to be in order to win games.”