LaVine could miss Game 5 after entering health and safety protocols

With the potential final game of the season looming, one more round of bad luck seems appropriate for the Bulls.

The team confirmed Zach LaVine entered health and safety protocols on Tuesday. These can turn out to be a false positive sometimes, but for now, it's unlikely he'll play in Wednesday's Game 5 at Milwaukee. The Bulls trail in the series 3-1.

“It just stinks being in that situation, first and foremost is for him, and second of all, us not having him,” teammate DeMar DeRozan said. “Him missing a full opportunity of playing in a playoff series, I mean, it's frustrating. I can't even imagine how he feels. The most important thing now is he comes out of that thing being healthy.”

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said he heard the news while already on the court getting ready for practice at the Advocate Center. DeRozan said he spoke to LaVine briefly.

“Just to make sure he was OK more than anything,” DeRozan said. “He was just frustrated. I think your frustration outweighs anything else, regardless of how he felt. I was just trying to be there, keep him positive mentally more than anything.”

Meanwhile, Donovan said there was no change in Alex Caruso's status. He is in concussion protocol and stayed home from practice Tuesday. Donovan said Caruso is still experiencing some symptoms.

The Bulls' defensive specialist was hit in the face in the second quarter of Sunday's Game 4 at the United Center and did not return to the contest.

Both LaVine and Caruso were officially listed as questionable for Game 5. While neither player joined the Bulls on Tuesday's bus ride to Wisconsin, they could obviously travel on Wednesday if cleared to play.

Donovan said he wasn't sure why LaVine was tested for COVID on Tuesday, but did say he knew LaVine was not feeling well. It's the third time since last April LaVine has been in health and safety protocols.

LaVine has averaged 19.3 points, 6 assists and 5.3 rebounds in this series, which marked his NBA playoff debut.

He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means it's conceivable he's played his last game for the Bulls. But signing a new contract to stay in Chicago is a likely scenario.

The Bulls had some games when they played well this season without LaVine and Caruso. They went 9-6 while LaVine was sidelined.

What usually happened was center Nikola Vucevic got more touches and found a shooting rhythm. DeRozan had some big games while LaVine was out, then with Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu filling in as starters, they were able to get some shots early in the game and get themselves going.

Then the Bulls still have experienced players to bring off the bench with Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr. and Troy Brown Jr. There was an example Monday of Toronto winning on the road at Philadelphia while trailing 3-1 in the series.

“Playing without (LaVine) was extremely tough,” DeRozan said. “He's Zach, it's hard to replace that. What he brings, who he is, the attention that he brings. It's a different dynamic of a game when Zach isn't out there, so not to have him and playing those games without him, it was definitely tough.”

The Bulls won Game 2 at Milwaukee when DeRozan scored 41 points. A huge difference was the Bucks didn't shoot well from 3-point range or get much from their bench in Games 1 and 2. At the United Center in Games 3 and 4, Grayson Allen couldn't miss, going 11-for-14 from 3-point land.

The Bulls are shooting just 28% as a team from behind the arc in this series. Whoever plays Wednesday, the primary goal will be to knock down more open looks than they did last weekend.

“This has been going on for us all year long,” Donovan said. “We have not even remotely been close to playing with a full roster. We'll have a lot to figure out on the ride up there and we'll figure out where those two guys potentially are.

“Our guys have stepped up when different stuff has happened and they've been really professional and they've handled themselves great.”


No gray area: Bulls get thumped by Bucks in playoff return

Bulls move on from Game 3 disaster, but season is on the line

Caruso misses second half after taking elbow to face

Bulls on the brink after Bucks dominate Game 4 inside and out

Portis offers a blueprint for what Bulls need from their young players

Caruso in concussion protocol, status for Game 5 unknown

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