Labeling it a “Big Three” is a bit much.
Actually it’s way too much.
Even Zach LaVine wasn’t going to call what he, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White have done the last three games as the product of a “Big Three.”
The Bulls guard is more into calling it “a pick your poison.”
Whatever the label, it’s what the Bulls will have to lean on the final four games, as they try and pull off a late-season miracle and overtake Indiana or Washington for a final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.
“They’re just going to have to pick their poison,” LaVine said, pointing out the latest example of how the trio went to work in the one-sided win in Detroit on Sunday night. “I got it going early, then they started doubling. My next instinct is to use me as a decoy – let them double me, hit ‘Vuch’ 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 the “Heatles” days? Not even in the same league. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden? Please.
What can’t be denied, however, is the numbers throughout the three-game winning streak. The trio has combined for 209 total points, led by Vucevic’s 25.3 per game. LaVine has put up 24.3 points, while White was 20 points per.
More importantly, two of the three showings came against playoff-bound teams like Charlotte and Boston.
But a “Big Three?” Not even coach Billy Donovan was going to feed that beast.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Donovan said. “I get it. I’ve always believed that the more guys that are – you think about, there’s 100 possessions on the offensive end of the floor – but there’s a lot of shots that go up, and I think you’ve gotta be balanced because you never know what’s gonna happen. And if they’re gonna double-team ‘Vuch’ in the low post he’s been unselfish enough to move the ball. Same thing with Zach.”
What also helps is that while LaVine is capable of get his own shot, seemingly whenever or from wherever he wants, White and Vucevic finally understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and how to best play off of each other.
Donovan and his staff have focused on making sure that when the ball goes into the post and Vucevic’s hands, White is set at the top of the key or ball side, leaving his defender the choice of having to leave White and help on the double-team of Vucevic, or leave the post defender on Vucevic Island by himself.
Fortunately for White, he’s been on a catch-and-shoot tear from the outside, so doubling down on the big man hasn’t been benefitting the opposing defense.
The Bulls will need that to continue if they want to get past the likes of two games against the Nets and another with Milwaukee.
Veteran forward Thad Young, however, has a different approach to the success of his “Big Three” teammates. The way Young sees it, yeah, the offense has been great from LaVine, Vucevic and White, but it’s been their defense that has, and will need, to carry the day if they want to play extra basketball this season.
That’s what Young is buying into.
“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.”