Sunday, October 1 2023

Bulls rave about Caruso’s defense in win over Raptors originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Wednesday started with Alex Caruso more boldly than ever before stating his belief in his defensive standing in the league, saying he thinks he’s worthy of his first All-Defensive team selection.

It ended with Caruso stuffing the box score with three steals and three blocks over his 31 minutes, 18 seconds during the Chicago Bulls’ play-in victory over the Toronto Raptors.

In other words, Caruso walked the walk after talking the talk.

“This is kind of my time of year,” Caruso said. “This is why I play basketball in the NBA, for games late in the year where details and discipline matter. And being able to compete at a high level for 48 minutes. I just didn’t want to lose. When you have that edge, you tend to make plays.”

Caruso made them repeatedly, drawing the initial assignment on 6-foot-8-inch Pascal Siakam, who owns a four-inch advantage, and closing in a switching scheme mostly on Fred VanVleet. That’s versatility.

“We feed off those guys. It’s contagious,” DeMar DeRozan said of the defensive mindset of Caruso, Patrick Beverley and Patrick Williams. “It’s amazing how much pride they take in being defenders. With us being the leaders of the team, we gotta follow behind and rally behind. They lock up, get steals, make big plays, sacrifice their body diving for the ball. It gets us going.”

For good measure, Caruso scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer with 6:26 left pulled the Bulls even at 91-91 for the first time after falling behind by 19 points in the third.

Caruso also scored on a fast-break layup in between two of his steals in a 17-second span. That also tied the game and then Beverley gave the Bulls their first lead since 29-28 on a 3-pointer with 5:07 left. That followed an offensive foul by Jakob Poeltl.

The only surprise is that Caruso wasn’t the victim of the illegal screen. DeRozan was.

“Alex, Bev came back in the game with Vooch (Nikola Vucevic) and DeMar,” coach Billy Donovan said of his substitutions with just over 10 minutes remaining. “That was a big factor.”

Caruso wasn’t perfect defensively; he was whistled for a questionable foul on Siakam’s 3-point attempt with 12 seconds left. The Raptors could’ve tied the game had Siakam made all three free throws.

Instead, on a night the Raptors shot a shocking 18-for-36 from the free-throw line, Siakam only made one of three.

“We had really good shots to start the game. Our top three scorers hit back rim, back rim, back rim. You live with that,” Caruso said. “It was just about defending and trying to fight to keep the game close until we got our offense going.”

Caruso and the Bulls accomplished both.

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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