Big Three lead Bulls past Wizards in crunch time

DeRozan finished with 27 points, and Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic each had 25. The three combined for 33 of the Bulls’ 35 fourth-quarter points.

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DeMar DeRozan finished with a team high 27 points in the Bulls 115-111 win over the Wizards.

DeMar DeRozan finished with a team high 27 points in the Bulls 115-111 win over the Wizards.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

If DeMar DeRozan could pinpoint the spark the Bulls need to turn things around, he would bottle it up and dole it out to his teammates.

But this isn’t “Space Jam,” and getting the season back on track isn’t as simple as passing around a water bottle marked “Michael’s secret stuff.” Ahead of Wednesday night’s 115-111 win against the Wizards — who, like the Bulls, entered on a three-game losing streak — DeRozan said it could be anything that triggers a turnaround.

“It’s all about timing,” he said. “Sometimes you have to go through the necessary things to find a different side of you as a team.”

What the Bulls have needed is more consistency from their three stars, better three-point shooting and some change. On Wednesday, their Big Three came up big late. DeRozan finished with 27 points, and Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic each had 25. These three combined for 33 of the Bulls’ 35 fourth-quarter points.

Coach Billy Donovan began the process of introducing change with the lineup after the Bulls’ 19-point loss to the Suns last week, moving Alex Caruso into the starting five and Ayo Dosunmu to the bench.

Caruso had a full stat line with five points, nine assists, four rebounds and a season-high-tying four steals. The Bulls finished with 29 assists on 45 field goals.

“He’s always been a tremendous passer and a playmaker,” Donovan said. “He’s such an unselfish player. He gets much more enjoyment out of other aspects of the game than scoring.”

The changes, combined with performances from their stars worthy of their reputation, contributed to the Bulls’ win, but it wasn’t always pretty and doesn’t signal a turnaround. That’s going to take more wining, and their schedule presents the opportunity for it with three of their next four games at home.

They got it done down the stretch against the Wizards, but there’s plenty to correct. Defensively, the Bulls struggled to recover in the post, giving up 28 points to Kristaps Porzingis and 60 total in the paint.

They went into the fourth quarter trailing by one. Both teams traded threes in the final five minutes. First, it was LaVine with three consecutive three-point baskets that were answered by threes from Kyle Kuzma and Monte Morris.

Then, Vucevic hit from the corner, putting the Bulls back in front by one.

They led by six with a minute to play but allowed the Wizards to pull within two in the final seconds. With 1.9 seconds left, LaVine secured the win sinking two free throws and making it a two-possession game.

The victory could be the beginning of a turnaround or just another example of how consistently inconsistent the Bulls have been all season.

It isn’t going to take anything special for this team to get hot. It will take more performances like Wednesday night’s from DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic.

“[We have to] keep doing what we just did,” LaVine said. “Instead of looking forward and saying we have to win this many games, win each day. That’s the goal.”

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