By: Dave Zeitlin
PHILADELPHIA – D.J. Augustin enjoyed another huge game Wednesday, eclipsing 20 points for the fifth time this month to lead the Chicago Bulls to a hard-fought 102-94 win victory over the 76ers.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the sixth-year pro, who now rides his red-hot play into Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, a team he struggled to gain any traction with during a rocky 2012-13 campaign.
“It’s just about opportunity,” Augustin said from the visitors’ locker room at the Wells Fargo Center following Wednesday's win. “I didn’t get an opportunity there. Coaches are different. It’s in the past. I’m not even thinking about that. I’m here now and I’m trying to make the best out of the situation.”
How different is Augustin’s situation now that he's been with the Bulls since mid-December?
While with the Pacers last season, the point guard averaged just 4.7 points and 16.1 minutes per game – and those numbers dipped to a mere 2.1 points and 8.2 minutes per contest with the Toronto Raptors during the first 10 games of this season.
[RELATED: Bulls' bench hands Sixers 22nd straight loss]
But now, as Wednesday’s game helped show, the former ninth overall pick out of the University of Texas is experiencing a career revival under the guidance of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
“Thibs wants me with the ball,” Augustin said. “So I’ve gotta do what I gotta do when I’m out there and he calls plays for me.”
Despite coming off the bench, Augustin had his ball in his hands for much of the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final six minutes to help thwart the Sixers’ serious upset bid.
The point guard finished with a team-high 20 points, while shooting a cool 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
“It’s just about getting open,” he said. “Teammates were getting me open and were doing a great job screening for me. And if I feel like I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”
Augustin, currently the leading scorer on a balanced Bulls squad, hopes to keep his hot hand heading into Friday’s game in Indiana. And even if he diplomatically states that his disappointing stint with the Pacers is "in the past," he still knows what it would mean if he could lead his new team to a win over his old one in what’s become a heated Eastern Conference rivalry.
“Whenever I was with Indy and we would play Chicago in Indy, there would be a lot of Bulls fans there,” Augustin said. “When I go there, I’m a Chicago Bull now. I’m with my teammates and there’s no shaking hands before the game. It’s all business.”