LaVine gives Cavs an all-star sampler
Zach LaVine did what an NBA superstar is supposed to do, rescued the Bulls from a lackluster effort by pouring in 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter on Saturday against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 19 points and by 15 at the start of the fourth quarter, but rallied to pull off a 118-116 victory at the United Center.
"If that's not an all-star performance, I don't know what is," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said.
Of course, LaVine still faces long odds when it comes to making the All-Star Game in Chicago next month. The Bulls are 16-28 and players on losing teams are usually bypassed for consideration. He also did this against another poor team. LaVine could have really helped his cause by scoring 40 on Friday at Philadelphia, but he was kept in check by rookie Matisse Thybulle.
Still, this win was much better for the Bulls than the alternative. After allowing Cleveland to score 102 points through three quarters, the Bulls turned up the defense and held the visitors to 14 points in the fourth.
The Bulls were credited with 8 steals and the Cavs piled up 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. Boylen stuck with one lineup for essentially the final 12 minutes, except for a couple of situational substitutions late in the contest. The Bulls used Lauri Markkanen at center and Chandler Hutchison at power forward, even though Cleveland kept Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson on the floor.
"We needed to be agile and quick and play fast and (Hutchison) can do that," Boylen said. "I have to give our guys credit on that. We had some different lineups in there we really haven't played with. We haven't played with Lauri at five and Hutch at four. We worked it out and Hutch got to the right spot and we were pretty organized for a group of guys that really hasn't play together that much."
The Bulls started the final quarter with a flurry and finally took the lead on a LaVine bank shot with 4:37 left. The lead changed hands a couple of times before a Markkanen lay in put the Bulls up for good with 2:54 remaining.
The Bulls got a couple of late breaks. Love's baseline drive and lay in could have become a game-tying 3-point play, since a foul was called on Markkanen for pushing Love from behind. The contact was minimal, though, Boylen challenged the call and it was overturned with 20.1 seconds left.
"I was just trying to run him off the (3-point) line," Markkanen said. "I knew the whole time I don't think I fouled him, so I'm glad we challenged it. I definitely didn't push him."
Then clinging to a 1-point lead, the Bulls turned it over on an inbound pass and Cleveland had the ball down by 1 with 8.6 seconds on the clock. The Cavs went to Love (29 points) against Hutchison, but his 10-foot bank shot somehow hit the side of the backboard. Kris Dunn grabbed the rebound, hit a free throw and the game was over.
The beginning of this game was easy to decipher. The Bulls didn't pay much attention to the 3-point line and the Cavaliers made them pay. Cleveland knocked down 12 of 17 shots from 3-point range in the first half, and that included a desperation miss at the buzzer.
"There's games like that, you come out, you're a little dead," Dunn said. "Give Cleveland credit, they came out on fire. We just kept sticking through it. That's our motto, when we get the defensive rebounds, stops and turnovers, we can get out in transition, you can see when we're in transition, we're hard to guard."
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