(670 The Score) Bulls guard Zach LaVine on Wednesday evening did what All-Stars do against inferior opponents. He refused to let his team lose in trying circumstances.
In another sensational performance in a season full of them, LaVine scored 37 points to help rally the Bulls from a 25-point deficit in the second quarter and to a 105-102 win against the Pistons at the United Center. In a game that was scheduled at the last minute a day prior after COVID-19 and snowstorm complications, the Bulls came out flat, only to have LaVine will them back into the contest by scoring 24 points of his own in the second half.
“Come out of halftime and give us a boost offensively and defensively,” LaVine said of his intention. “I feel like I did that. That’s what players in my position have to do.”
LaVine was at his best in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and getting to the hoop time and again to spark a Bulls offense that struggled from long range. LaVine shot 14-of-22, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, and added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. The rest of the Bulls other than LaVine shot just 4-of-22 (18.2%) on 3-pointers.
“He was aggressive,” Bulls point guard Coby White said. “He played with a will that he refused to lose. In the third quarter especially, he was really getting downhill and getting to the rim. The fourth quarter, he was just making the right basketball play. He was trusting his teammates, and we came out. He played big for us the whole night.”
LaVine viewed his relentlessness as what the Bulls needed. Near the end of the third quarter, it also featured him and Pistons forward Josh Jackson getting tangled up and exchanging words after the whistle blew, drawing double technicals. It apparently continued to fuel LaVine’s fire on this evening.
“The only person I’m scared of is God and my dad,” LaVine said.
LaVine hit a 3-pointer to put the Bulls up 94-89 with 2:26 left, then had a ferocious driving dunk on Chicago’s next possession to give his team a 96-92 lead. After that, LaVine refrained from forcing the action on the next few possessions, which has been a criticism of his play late in games. He helped draw attention and get the ball moving as White and rookie forward Patrick Williams soon followed with big 3-pointers to help the Bulls seal the victory.
“He did a really good job of reading the game,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought he did a really good job of knowing when to drive when to pull it back when to take his jump shot, how to read the switch, how to read the trap. And I thought the end of the game, the way he executed, getting to where he wanted to go was great.”
LaVine has often been open about his desire to earn All-Star honors for the first time in his career. In his seventh season, he’s performing like one and deserving of the recognition that previously eluded him. He’s averaging 28.5 points, which ranks sixth in the NBA, and he’s doing it while posting superb shooting splits – 52% overall from the field, 43.7% on 3-pointers and 84.7% on free throws. He has also played in every game.
Whether LaVine makes the All-Star Game, which is set to be held in Atlanta on March 7, will almost certainly come down to the vote of the coaches, who choose the reserves. The starters are revealed Thursday, while the reserves are announced next Tuesday.
“Zach has been amazing all season long,” Bulls forward Thad Young said. “The list goes on of how many things he does for this team. He’s definitely an All-Star. He’s playing at a super high level. His ability to do a lot of different things, he puts us in a better position each and every night. Sometimes it’s effortless how he’s scoring the basketball. I love Zach to death.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.