LaVine doesn't need much help as Bulls roll past Cavs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Bulls' Zach LaVine (8) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' Dante Exum in the first half Saturday in Cleveland.

    The Bulls' Zach LaVine (8) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' Dante Exum in the first half Saturday in Cleveland. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/25/2020 11:00 PM

The Bulls headed into Cleveland on Saturday in search of a second scorer who could step up in the absence of Lauri Markkanen.

Zach LaVine solved that issue himself. He didn't need much help, piling up 44 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists as the Bulls breezed to a 118-106 victory over the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

LaVine was asked after the game if he knew how close he was to a triple-double.

"I haven't had one before," he said. "Literally like two minutes to go, all right maybe I should get a couple assists. But the game got out of hand. I'll get one eventually."

A LaVine triple-double on Saturday would have been historic. There have been three 40-point triple-doubles in Bulls history, all by Michael Jordan and they all happened in 1989. The most recent was Jordan's 47 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds at Indiana on April 13, 1989.

There have been five 40-point triple-doubles in the NBA this season -- two each by Houston's James Harden and Dallas' Luka Doncic, with one from Atlanta's Trae Young.

This was the third-highest scoring game of LaVine's career, behind his 49 points at Charlotte on Nov. 23, and 47 points in the four overtime game in Atlanta last season. LaVine now has eight 40-point games in his career.

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Maybe it will enhance his chances to be chosen as an all-star reserve, but he's facing some tough odds in that regard, due to the Bulls' losing record. All-star reserves are chosen by conference head coaches and will be announced next Thursday.

"All-star performance," coach Jim Boylen told reporters after the game. "I thought he was just unbelievable -- driving it, shooting it, creating. He's a great kid and he wants to be great. He was frustrated after last night, our team was frustrated. I thought he responded and that's what good players do. They take it to heart, it bothers them. I thought he was focused and I thought he was very physical getting to the rim."

On Friday, the Bulls played their first game since finding out Markkanen would miss 4-6 weeks with a stress reaction in his pelvis and lost at home to Sacramento.

"First game, we just didn't come out to play the right way," LaVine said. "I just wanted to come out more aggressive. We were playing really well on defense, getting stops, getting out in transition. It makes a big difference when you get a team on their heels, that's when you can start picking up the pressure. Just different mentality. I felt like the whole team, we were upset about the loss. I took it upon myself to go out there and just be aggressive."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

LaVine did get some scoring help. Tomas Satoransky finished with 19 points, his third-highest scoring game of the season. Thaddeus Young scored 11 points and Kris Dunn 10.

The bench did a better job too, with Ryan Arcidiacono (9 points), Coby White (8 points) and Chandler Hutchison (8 points) providing some help. But this was the Cavaliers, owners of the league's third-worst record. For the Bulls to stay in playoff contention, they'll need to start beating good teams.

"We know what our position is right now, it's getting close to all-star break, so it's make-or-break time," LaVine said. "We're in a battle for that eighth spot."

The Bulls trailed for most of the first half, then turned on the jets and won the third quarter 40-19. The Bulls led by 23 points heading into the fourth quarter. Cleveland made a comeback, but the Bulls were never in any danger.

Kevin Love led the Cavs with 20 points, while Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman added 18 each.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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