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NBA Playoffs 2022

Caruso helps Bulls revive their defensive spirit

Caruso helping Bulls rekindle defensive 'spirit'

Lex Caruso's influence was felt in every aspect of Chicago Bull .'s victory
And that didn't stop when the last bell sounded.

"They (the dollars) automatically have the advantage at the moment," Caruso told his teammates in the dressing room right after the match. "The effect of human nature. We win, they lose, they'll be the hungrier team, naturally.

"Enjoy it (win). Learn from it. I have to get back to the same mindset (in Game 3)."

Caruso, who won a title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, knows that one first-round win isn't a contender. This sentiment was echoed in comments to reporters moments later.

"Go to game three. We have to win three more times," he said when asked about the significance of the Bulls' win, which tied the series 1-1. Lots of games to play.

2022 NBA Playoffs: Round 1

However, it's worth appreciating the Bulls' first playoff win since 2017 for a moment - and Caruso's outsized role in the outcome.

The Bulls not only snatched their first win of the season against the Bucks on Wednesday night, they did, for the second game in a row, reclaiming the unpredictable and chaotic defensive style that defined their early season success, but it dissipated. During a slow stretching run. As a team, the Bulls caught seven heists and forced Milwaukee to make 15 turns in Game 2 after scoring 10 and 21 respectively in Game 1.

"We've had a long season," said Caruso. "We've had a lot of ordeals. It was a little bit about, we were just trying to start qualifying really. We were kind of in a hole." “But we got our spirits back up. We talked to each other about the opportunity we had.

It's the playoffs. If you had to get up to play in the playoffs, you probably wouldn't play. It only comes with the territory."

Caruso is the head of this snake, connected to the defensive bulls attack signal. He contributed two of those steals, two blocks, and pulled a crucial offensive rebound 35.1 seconds before the end of the fourth quarter and charged Giannis Antetokounmpo after 30 marks - a fitting cover in his all-out evening, which also featured three 3-point makings and 10 assists and a high game +16 plus minus.

"He's the anchor in our defence. (He) brings strength," DeMar DeRozan said of Caruso. “I told him not long ago that I rely on him because of his defensive energy, just his voice. He is a leader when it comes to that.

He makes me go sometimes, even if he doesn't talk to me directly, when he talks there's so much I took from him. Try to meet this challenge. Especially when you see him go out there and compete with whatever, if it's Giannis Jr., whatever, you want to match the same intensity as him."

Two Derosanne blocks in a pivotal three-minute period between the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth provide evidence of this. So too will the Bulls' team-wide commitment to focus on their next play rather than their previous possessions.

Because no matter how effective Caruso is at playing, communicating or driving - on and off the field - it takes a full roster to get the defensive results the team has achieved so far this season. This dynamic is even more necessary in the absence of Lonzo Ball.

That's why, when Caruso was asked if he could tell the Bulls had opened up a higher level of defensive engagement since the end of the regular season, a smile emerged.

Can you tell?” He replied, tilting his head to the side. “Yes. We can say. I think everyone can say." Indeed.