Notes from the Bulls taking down the Nets

Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso were the unheralded spark plugs

The Bulls took down the Brooklyn Nets 118-95 in a game that was a lot closer than that final score indicated.

I will oftentimes look at the lead tracker on the NBA’s box score webpage to get a feel for the flow of these games, and you can see that this one was an up-and-down affair until the Bulls ran away with it in the fourth quarter.

So what sparked that fourth quarter? The three biggest contributors to me were DeMar DeRozan doing his usual midrange magic, Alex Caruso’s defense on James Harden, and Ayo Dosunmu giving the team a boost.

What more can you say about how excellent DeRozan has been? I’ve already covered how the Bulls have counted on him all year down the stretch, and he came through again with 10 points in the fourth quarter. He’s playing at an All-NBA level.

With that in mind, I decided to focus on Caruso and Dosunmu for this story.

Start Alex Caruso

The Bulls need to put Caruso in the starting lineup. He’s playing a shade under 28 minutes per game, and that has to go up.

Slow starts for the Bulls have been endemic. They couldn’t overcome that problem in both of their losses to the Philadelphia 76ers last week. Javonte Green and Patrick Williams haven’t been giving the team enough as starters, and Donovan has opted to close with Caruso most of the time anyway.

Caruso has obviously been one of the team’s top five players to anyone who has watched even a small portion of Bulls games this year. Where his value comes from is in hounding the best offensive players on opposing teams. Those guys are always starters. His defense on James Harden in Monday’s win against the Nets was otherworldly.

By playing Caruso off the bench, Billy Donovan is wasting his greatest strength. Caruso came into Monday’s game midway through the first quarter and checked Patty Mills, who is a nice shooter but obviously nowhere near Harden’s level.

I’ve also said before that I think Caruso might be the best guard screener in the league. Mo Dakhil, a must-follow for those interested in the X’s and O’s side of the game, pointed out a great example of how Caruso worked behind the scenes to get DeRozan open for one of his big fourth quarter buckets.

If the Bulls want to stop playing from big deficits, then an easy fix is to start Caruso. Put him on the best players defensively while allowing him to set screens for the big guns on the Bulls and space the floor by spotting up for jumpers.

Instead, they have been wasting a lot of Caruso’s minutes guarding mediocre offensive players and forcing him to create more offense than he’s probably capable of.

The Bulls will be undersized with Caruso as a starter, but they can’t afford not to play him more.

Ayo time

If you didn’t read Donovan’s quotes raving about Dosunmu postgame, I’d suggest checking them out. KC Johnson and Darnell Mayberry both had good roundups.

What has really struck me about Dosunmu is that he is the ultimate move onto the next play guy, which is something that the Bulls have struggled immensely with in their player development (somewhere in Orlando, Wendell Carter Jr. just sneezed). He will have some zany plays where he has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing on offense (I know a lot of you don’t click the video links, but that one is pretty epic). He will follow those up the next time down with something that makes the United Center crowd gasp.

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Mamba mentality, but Dosunmu clearly utilizes it well for his purposes.

Dosunmo earned himself a highlight package on Monday. Since no one else was going to do it, I clipped it up myself.

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