The night after scoring a career-high 33 points in Boston, Bulls backup point guard D.J. Augustin struggled shooting the ball, hitting one out of his nine shot attempts and only scoring four points against the Celtics’ defense Monday evening at the United Center.
But the diminutive floor general also dished out 11 assists in the Bulls’ 94-80 win, shifting from scorer to playmaker in helping his team sweep the back-to-back, home-and-home series.
“The game tells you what you have to do and I thought he wasn’t getting the same looks, so he made the right play, the right read and every night, it’s going to be someone different. So sometimes it’s his shot, sometimes it’s his pass. Just make the right play and I thought he did that,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If they’re committing more than one player to him, that means we should have some easy opportunities for others. Just keep the ball moving, make quick decisions. Don’t hold on to it, don’t dance with it.”
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Joakim Noah, who had 13 assists in Sunday’s win, became more of a scorer back in Chicago, scoring 19 points Monday, including functioning as the Bulls’ go-to scorer down the stretch. The All-Star center didn’t mind switching roles with Augustin,
“You don’t know what’s going to happen. Every game is different and it’s all about finding ways to win, and just try to be as versatile as possible,” Noah explained. “The reason why D.J. was able to be a facilitator is because they put two [defenders] on him, they put more pressure on him and that opened up the floor for other guys.”
Augustin realized from the outset of the contest that the Celtics took on a different defensive strategy against him, not wanting to risk getting torched for the second night in a row.
“From the beginning of the game. I knew they were going to do that, adjust to me. But like you said, I had to do some other things and find my teammates, and they did a great job of getting open,” Augustin said. “Definitely tonight, that sat on a lot of things. They clogged up the lane on me. I couldn’t get in the lane like I was last night and just had to make adjustments. I shot the ball when I was open. They didn’t fall tonight, but I tried to get my teammates involved and they did a great job of getting open.”
The sixth-year point guard also acknowledged that he’s playing some of the best basketball of his NBA career has been in a Bulls uniform.
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“I feel like I’m just getting better, just working on my game. Being in this system is just helping me get better and just keep working hard, that’s what I’m trying to do and keep getting better as a player,” he said. “I would love to be back here. This organization and this team is great. I think it was great for me in just giving me an opportunity to play and get better.”
Returning to Chicago isn’t a given, as Augustin is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and besides Kyle Lowry — coincidentally, the player he backed up in Toronto before being waived by the Raptors — there might not be any better veteran point guard on the market, excluding younger, restricted free agents like Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas. But the New Orleans native isn’t worried about the future just yet.
“I know it’s there, but I’m not really focused on it. I’m just trying to play every game, worry about every game. Because when it comes to that kind of stuff, you never know what could happen. It’s out of your hands anyway, so I’m not really going to stress myself out over it and worry about it and focus on it. When the time comes, I’m going to let it be handled by my agent and try to relax,” Augustin explained. “Kyle’s a great player. I played with him and he’s going to be available this summer. And I don’t think he’s really focusing on free agency right now also. I think he’s just focusing on the playoffs and getting better.”