The Bulls completed their sweep of the, I suppose we’ll call it “group stage” today with a dominant second half over a very talented Minnesota squad. After a relatively competitive first half, the Bulls turned it on in the third quarter, doubling up Minnesota 32-16, then pulling even farther ahead after winning the fourth 26-14. Doug McDermott once again led the team in scoring, finishing with 20 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 turnovers on 7-13 shooting (4-7 from three, 2-2 from the line). Tony Snell, whose strong, aggressive play paced the Bulls in the first two games, saw his production drop off a bit, finishing with 12 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds on 4-12 shooting (2-4 from deep, 2-2 from the line).
Minnesota was paced by former Bulls camp invite Kyrylo Fesenko (5-5, 13 pts, 7 reb), Zach LaVine (5-11, 12 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), and Shabazz Muhammad (3-15, 10 pts, 3 reb). They fall to 0-3 at LVSL and will look to salvage their trip West with a victory in their first round playoff game later this week.
While Ebony and Ivory played their games well again, this victory belongs to the rest of the Bulls as much as it does their two most prominent players. David Wear (15 pts, 3 stl), Lazeric Jones (12 pts, 4 ast), Lance Thomas (13 pts, 6 reb), all played major roles in the Bulls’ dominant second half. Despite these contributions, it was second round pick Cameron Bairstow who made one of the biggest impacts. Where his selection was met with eye-rolling and derisive comparisons to the dearly departed Erik Murphy, Bairstow has already shown himself to be a much better fit for the surplus big this team requires, specifically after the acquisitions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic (which should be announced sometime this week, now that the requisite space is free from the CARLOS BOOZER AMNESTY AHHHH GRAB THAT CAP SPACE JO). The Bulls will be in need of another energy big, and Bairstow seems to fit that bill, continuing his fine play this week with an 11 point, 7 rebound, 4 assist, 2 block outing today.
After the game, when asked about fitting into what is now a cluttered and diversely talented frontcourt, Bairstow responded that finding playing time is going to be “about contributing without the ball in your hands and making the job easier for your teammates,” which supports this idea. When asked what the team wants him to work on at LVSL, he immediately responded “Defense, first of all,” continuing that “NBA defense is a completely different game, with the 3 second rule,” and that learning “the different nuances of the game on the defensive side” is his primary focus both in Las Vegas and over the rest of the summer. Bairstow posited that Summer League has been “a good learning experience, and it’s going to continue to be.”
Heading into the final stretch of games in group play, the Bulls are the presumptive #1 overall seed, having won every quarter of every game and coming away the maximum total of 12 points. They’ll play again later this week.