As the shot clock ran out and the Nets were called for a violation Friday night, Bulls guard Alex Caruso pumped his fist and started screaming and flexing for the United Center crowd.
He turned to find his newest partner in crime, Patrick Beverley, and the two high-fived and chest-bumped.
For the first time perhaps all season, the Bulls suddenly had some defensive pride and, more important, an edge.
Amazing what some homegrown Chicago toughness can do for a team. Not a bad debut for Beverley, the former Marshall High School standout whom the Bulls picked up this week.
Was Beverley the sole reason for their 131-87 blowout victory over the Nets? Absolutely not, but even with Beverley having just two days of practice under his belt and one morning shootaround, coach Billy Donovan thought enough of him to change the starting lineup and rotation.
In were veterans Beverley and Caruso. Out were youngsters Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams, both relegated to the second team.
The buzz was felt immediately. Beverley’s pregame introduction started with, “From Chicago . . .”, followed by a roar from the UC. And once the ball was tipped, he helped the Bulls jump out to the quick 11-2 start.
Almost instantly, he added defensive communication and energy to the starting group — two areas where the Bulls (27-33) have lacked all year.
“I believe that communication is the biggest thing to be a human,” said Beverley, who finished with eight points and five rebounds and was a plus-24 in plus/minus in 22 minutes. “If you’re in a relationship, married, whatever the case may be, communication or the wife will get mad. You got a friend, he feels some type of way, communication or the friend gets mad. So, it’s the same thing in basketball. It comes natural.”
Donovan wasn’t surprised by Beverley’s fast impact.
“Him being himself is really important, but the idea that he’s yelling and screaming at guys, that’s not really what he does,” Donovan said. “He’s very inspiring and uplifting, and very positive, but the one thing I respect about him is he comes into everything with great energy. After every practice, where we had a legitimate practice, you get the load sheets. And his loads the first two days were as high as anybody. So you feel his energy. And then his voice has been really positive in terms of trying to uplift guys, give guys confidence and belief, that type of stuff. There’s no question you can feel his presence.”
The Nets (34-25) sure did, with one of their worst offensive showings of the season. They had just 29 points in the first half — the fewest the Bulls allowed since they limited the Wizards to 26 on April 5, 2014. The Beverley Effect? Not entirely, but it didn’t hurt.
By the end of the third quarter, the Bulls were up 97-51, with the Nets shooting 28.8% from the field and just 19.4% (6-for-31) from three-point range. The 44-point loss was the fourth-largest margin of defeat in Nets history.
Not bad for a Bulls team that entered the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak and has had trouble holding leads all season.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 32 points. Williams scored 17 in his new role off the bench.
“I have a cold one after the game, after a win, a convincing win,” Beverley said. “Everything was great. Going to enjoy this win.’’