Center Nikola Vucevic injects dose of reality into Bulls’ two-game winning streak

In his opinion, while the level of defense the Bulls have played in their first two games since the All-Star break has been nice to see from an identity standpoint, it’s not sustainable — especially in today’s NBA.

SHARE Center Nikola Vucevic injects dose of reality into Bulls’ two-game winning streak
Bulls center Nikola Vucevic.

While Bulls center Nikola Vucevic was glad to see some energy and life on the defensive end the last two games, the veteran feels like this style of play won’t be sustainable long-term.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is trying to be a realist.

He has loved the Bulls’ defensive energy in their first two games since the All-Star break and the fact it has resulted in two much-needed victories.

And if holding opponents to fewer than 90 points in back-to-back games for the first time in five seasons was the Bulls’ primary goal, Vucevic would be all about it. But it’s not.

In his opinion, while this style of play has been nice to see from an identity standpoint, it’s not sustainable — especially in today’s NBA.

‘‘When the offense isn’t working, you have no choice but to play this way if you want to win, but it’s obviously not who we want to be,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘We have too much talent on this team to be that type of team. We just have to figure it out offensively, find a way to be more efficient, play with a little more pace, because it’s going to be hard to continue holding teams under 90 points in today’s NBA. It’s not realistic.’’

The Bulls have the NBA’s best defensive rating since Jan. 1, but all they have to show for it during that time is a 12-13 record.

Maybe that will be enough to get them into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament if it continues in their last 21 regular-season games, but that wasn’t the Bulls’ mission at the start of the season.

It certainly wasn’t the expectation of executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, who set the bar at reaching at least the second round of the playoffs.

‘‘We’ve got to find some more offense,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘If we can tweak some things offensively, that would help a lot. The big thing for us is to try and find ways to create more three-point shots, looks, make a few more — starting with me.’’

The Bulls shot 30 three-pointers in their 20-point victory Sunday against the Wizards, but they made only eight of them (26.7%). For the season, they are averaging a league-low 28.8 three-point tries a game. By comparison, the Warriors lead the NBA at 43.3.

The Bulls also averaged 28.8 three-point tries a game last season, but they ranked fourth in the league with 36.9% accuracy. They are 16th this season at 35.9%.

Vucevic’s other concern is that while the Bulls’ defensive communication has been stellar the last two games — thanks in large part to the addition of point guard Patrick Beverley — the Nets had a horrible shooting night Friday and the Wizards were missing two starters Sunday, including 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis.

The Bulls have been able to get away with playing basically a four-guard starting lineup because of favorable matchups in their last two games. That’s not going to be the case against bigger teams such as the Raptors and Suns, especially if Kevin Durant plays.

‘‘It’s definitely not [sustainable],’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘To be honest, you can’t expect us to defend like that every game and for teams to miss as much as they have. [Against] Brooklyn, we played good defense, but they also had a really off-night. You have to be realistic about that.

‘‘That might get us some wins here and there, but if you really want to do something a little more legit, it can’t be this way. We have to find a way to be more of a threat with our offense.’’

The Latest
The monumental decision sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start steering millions of dollars directly to athletes as soon as the 2025 fall semester.
Marina Mabrey led the Sky with 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Angel Reese added 13 points and nine rebounds and Dana Evans finished with 12 points and four assists.
“I’ve been in the game long enough to know this doesn’t last forever,” Grifol said.
Clarence Johnson of Bellwood faces a first-degree murder charge in Wednesday’s stabbing death of Francois H. Reed-Swain in the West Loop restaurant. No motive was given.