LAS VEGAS — On a day that saw them land veteran big man Pau Gasol, the Bulls fared well in their NBA summer-league opener in Las Vegas, beating the Clippers, 86-70, Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Second-year swingman Tony Snell led the way for the Bulls, pouring in a game-high 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting from the field, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range, as well as a much more aggressive approach.
“The hard work I put in this summer, I think that was the big difference,” Snell said afterwards. “I feel real comfortable, once I got the flow going. I was a little rusty at the beginning, threw a couple turnovers at the beginning. But that’s part of the game. Just got to move on, keep pushing.
“I was just letting the game come to me. Don’t force it,” he continued. “Just being more of a leader. Being more talkative on the court, making sure everybody’s at the right spots.”
After jumping out to a 15-4 start behind the play of Snell and veteran journeyman Lance Thomas, the Bulls saw the Clippers play catch-up and make it a close-knit affair, 22-19, at the end of the opening period.
While Snell remained a consistent scoring threat, helping the Bulls once again build a double-digit lead, the second quarter featured first-round draft pick Doug McDermott getting into his groove, to the delight of the crowd, and the Bulls took a 46-35 advantage into the intermission.
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After the break, second-round pick Cameron Bairstow started to make his presence felt, as did the Bulls’ reserves, including ex-Canisius point guard Billy Baron, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter made it a 65-51 game in the Bulls’ favor.
Snell, matched up with longtime NBA veteran Delonte West, continued to score with ease and overall, looked much improved from his rookie campaign and between his long-range shooting and athletic slashing, including an explosive dunk off the dribble, stole the show.
“Just being able to talk to the veterans on the team, letting me know what I can do to improve, to get better. it’s definitely about your confidence,” Snell said of his offseason improvements. “Just getting a lot of shots up during the summer. I felt pretty confident today.
“I’ve put on 10 pounds. So I feel a lot stronger and better out there,” he added. “I feel like I’m a lot stronger and a lot faster, so that’s a good sign.
“Being able to show my experience to the rookies and everybody that’s new here. Just show my experience of what I learned to help them out.”