Bulls turn tables, collect easy win in Orlando

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) goes past Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross (31) and dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.

    Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) goes past Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross (31) and dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/6/2021 10:09 PM

At the end of a rare blowout victory for the Bulls in Orlando on Saturday, Denzel Valentine said in the postgame TV interview that coach Billy Donovan challenged the team in a meeting earlier in the day.

Asked what he said, Donovan got uniquely philosophical in how he broke down an NBA game.

 

"Every possession's important," Donovan said. "Every possession has a life of its own. It's a competitive, 24-second life of its own. There will never, ever be another possession like that, maybe again. And how you play that is really important.

"You can't pick and choose which ones you decide to play as a competitor. You have to physically line up and play and concentrate. I thought we were more consistent in that today."

The Bulls (9-13) rolled to a 118-92 victory after leading by as many as 33 points, easily their largest of the season. A more aggressive Zach LaVine poured in 39 points. Meanwhile, rookie Patrick Williams picked up the first double-double of his NBA career with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

With Lauri Markkanen (shoulder) and Otto Porter (back) sidelined, Valentine got his first start of the season and scored 20 points, his highest total since 2017-18.

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"Denzel's great, a very high IQ basketball player who can shoot the ball and also create and play-make," LaVine said. "I've always been in his corner. I'm glad to see him get this opportunity and capitalize on it. I love having Denzel out there."

Williams had his two best games of the season against Orlando. Maybe he felt comfortable being back in Florida, since he played at Florida State last year. Or perhaps the Bulls being short-handed pushed him to be more aggressive offensively.

"He should play that way regardless who's in or out," LaVine said of Williams. "Once he figures out who he is and how gifted he is, he's going to be a monster."

It was the first time this season the Bulls held an opponent below 100 points. The Bulls successfully limited Magic center Nikola Vucevic to 17 points and 8 rebounds, after an absurd 43-point, 19-rebound performance on Friday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But it doesn't make sense to get too excited about this victory. Orlando (9-15) was essentially missing four starters. Second-leading scorer Evan Fournier was a late scratch due to a back injury. The Magic was already without Aaron Gordon, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac.

After scoring 24 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss, LaVine was looking to make things happen early on the offensive end. He scored 11 in the first quarter, which Donovan thinks is important.

"Zach is such a team-oriented guy and he's very unselfish and he wants to play the right way," Donovan said. "But he's got to understand that playing downhill and attacking the basket doesn't mean you have to shoot it. He made some great passes and generated a lot of open shots tonight. That's just the mentality he's got to play with."

Donovan made it clear he doesn't want to put it all on LaVine when things go wrong. But as the team's leading scorer and a budding all-star, he wants LaVine to ignite the Bulls on the offensive end.

"We can't have those kind of lapses like we had (Friday) offensively where he's really almost looked not involved," Donovan said. "And even when he had the ball he really wasn't doing much with it.

"He has got to play with a head of steam and force downhill when there's a guy on the side of him and he's got to go. Then he's got to make a decision. Tonight I thought he was terrific."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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