White drops career-high 42 points as Bulls advance to play-in final
David Banks - USA Today Sports

White drops career-high 42 points as Bulls advance to play-in final

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - It's not always how you start your season, but how you finish it, and the Chicago Bulls have done an excellent job finishing. After a 4-15 start to the season and looking like a team that would be in a selling mood, Chicago turned their season around and went 35-28 down the stretch to secure the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Keep in mind that they did that without Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Patrick Williams, and even Torrey Craig for an extended period. This team was put to the test with so many injuries and continued to find a way to battle through it. Looking to secure a berth in the Play-in finale, the Bulls welcomed in an Atlanta Hawks team that struggled down the stretch and also suffered their share of injuries.

If the fans have learned anything about when these teams get together, it would be to expect the unexpected, and Coby White delivered an unexpected yet incredible performance. Right from the jump, White was dialed in, but it was in the second half that he took over. He finished with a game and career-high 42 points to push the Bulls to the 131-116 victory.

From a talent side of things, Chicago has no business being in a play-in game, but given their lack of consistency throughout the regular season and the number of injuries, this is where things fell. Looking to send a message early, the Bulls came out and made a statement as Demar DeRozan opened the game with 11 first-quarter points to set the tone as the Bulls led 40-22 after one. DeRozan cooled down significantly after the opening 12 minutes, but still finished with 22 points.

Following an ugly first quarter, Atlanta came out with a different mindset in the second and started to do the things they do well. Not only did they outscore the Bulls 45-33 to pull within six at the half, but they were giving the Bulls all they could handle most of the third as they managed to get the deficit down to single digits. The rest is history as the Bulls defense began to take over, leading to easy transition offense before pulling away.

While White and DeRozan may get the brunt of the attention, you can't overlook the job that Nikola Vucevic did, as he has picked a great time to start playing basketball again. The big man delivered with 24 points and 12 boards, making it five double-doubles in his last six. Chicago also saw Ayo Dosunmu return from a calf injury, and it was as if he had never missed a beat.

Dosunmu gave the Bulls 41 minutes and shot an impressive 66% from the field to finish with 19 points. With the Bulls shooting 57% as a team, nothing was surprising, but Chicago was dealt another massive blow as Alex Caruso left early in the game with an injury and didn't return. His status for Friday is uncertain, but with 10 points off the bench, Javonte Green continues to show he is more than adequate to fill in if needed.

A big reason for the second-half struggles for the Hawks has been their injuries, especially to their PG, Trae Young. Young has the ability to dictate the tempo on the floor, and despite an up-and-down shooting night, he still managed to finish with 22 points while dishing out 10 assists. As has been the case for the better part of two months, Dejounte Murray led the offense with 30 points, as some are calling this the final time he suits up in a Hawks uniform.

Should he enter free agency this offseason, Murray will be one of the most sought-after pieces, and his price point would become too high for the Hawks. Those two had great games, but they weren't alone. Clint Capela had a monster 22-point night while hauling 17 rebounds, giving the Bulls frontcourt fits. Bogdan Bogdanovic also did his job on the floor, recording 21 points in the loss, as the Hawks didn't have answers for the Bulls' scoring attack.

Chicago will now take their talents to South Beach when they face the Miami Heat on Friday night. The winner gets the No.8 seed, and the loser is out. This also is a rematch of last season's play-in final, one in which the Heat won that game and then went on to make it to the NBA finals.

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