NBA: Vucevic produces masterpiece as Bulls gore slumping Warriors

Nikola Vucevic (right) scored 43 points for the Chicago Bulls as they beat the Golden State Warriors on Jan 15. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES – Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vucevic attributed his 43-point masterpiece in the 132-118 victory over slumping National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Golden State Warriors on Sunday to the team’s aggressive offence.

The Montenegrin star bagged his ninth straight double-double after stepping up in the absence of the injured DeMar DeRozan to help the Bulls snap a three-game losing streak at Chicago’s United Center.

“Tonight what I thought really made a difference, the reason why I was able to get going was because we really moved the ball,” Vucevic said on Bulls Postgame Live.

“We really played aggressively offensively and I was able to get into my spots. We weren’t stagnant like the game before so it was much easier to play within the flow of the offence.

“A lot of my shots, I really didn’t have to work too much for it. Just open looks, threes, or inside, so when you play that way, the game’s much easier for everyone.”

It was indeed much better for Vucevic’s teammates as his performance was the centrepiece of a balanced all-round offensive display by Chicago, who saw six players finish with double-digit point tallies.

Zach LaVine added 27 points, while Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu had 12 points apiece. Coby White added 15 from the bench.

Vucevic himself hit 18 of his 31 shots and made five three-point attempts, giving him 14 more points than he’d scored in any previous game this season. The 32-year-old also found time for a game-high 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals, which left Bulls coach Billy Donovan hinting that he would like to get Vucevic more involved in offence moving forward.

“We’ve got to try to establish him as much as we can,” said Donovan.

“It’s not necessarily so much trying to get him to score, it’s establishing when the ball’s in his hands because he’s a really good facilitator... the biggest thing is keeping him in rhythm, just getting the ball in his hands.

“Even if he didn’t score, it’s important that he’s engaged in the game for us, offensively.”

The victory was the perfect tonic for the Bulls (20-24) as they now head to Paris for a regular-season fixture against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.

But the loss was another alarm bell for the struggling Warriors, the reigning NBA champions who are in eighth place in the Western Conference standings with a 21-22 record.

Klay Thompson led the Golden State scoring with 26 points, while Stephen Curry put up a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jordan Poole had 15 points, Anthony Lamb 14 and Andrew Wiggins 11 as the Warriors, who fell to 4-17 on the road, were left counting the cost of 23 turnovers.

“We’re having trouble stacking good decision upon good decision,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“That’s what this game is about – at both ends. You’re not always going to make shots, but can you execute offensively without turning the ball over?

“Can you execute defensively over and over again? We’re just not solid enough right now to be able to do that.”

Kerr meanwhile refused to make excuses for the defeat.

“You can make all kinds of excuses, but it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Everybody’s got excuses, everyone’s got injuries with guys in and out of the rotation. We just got to do better.”

In other games on Sunday, Julius Randle scored a season-high 42 points as the New York Knicks bagged their third straight victory with a 117-104 defeat of Detroit.

He also hauled in 15 rebounds while team-mate Jalen Brunson finished with 27 points in a comfortable victory for the Knicks, who are sixth in the Eastern Conference table.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was left purring at Randle’s performance both in defence and offence.

“The rebounding is just huge. He got every big rebound down the stretch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s all over the place.

“He’s on the perimeter guarding guards and everything else. I thought he was terrific.”

In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard and Terance Mann combined for 61 points in the Clippers’ 121-100 win over the Houston Rockets. Mann posted 31 points while Leonard added 30 as the league-worst Rockets slumped to a 10th straight loss.


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