LaVine's hot shooting leads Bulls to another blowout win

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls forward Thaddeus Young (21) take a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) and guard Ty Jerome (16) during the second quarter Tuesday night at the United Center.

    Chicago Bulls forward Thaddeus Young (21) take a shot over Oklahoma City Thunder center Isaiah Roby (22) and guard Ty Jerome (16) during the second quarter Tuesday night at the United Center. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/16/2021 10:32 PM

Now matter how well he plays, Zach LaVine will never do any better than a distant second as the best scorer in Bulls history.

But he has posted some impressive numbers this season. In Tuesday's 123-102 win over Oklahoma City, he scored 40 points in just 31 minutes, hitting 15 of 20 shots overall and 7 of 12 from 3-point range,

 

He also had a ridiculous plus-minus of plus-36 and guarded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for much of the night. The Thunder's rising star had 21 points and 1 assist on Tuesday, compared to 33 points and 10 assists in the first meeting this season.

"That guy was unbelievable," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of LaVine. "I give him a lot of credit because he asked to come out of the game early in that third quarter. I think he exhausted himself. He was guarding Shai and he was playing so aggressively.

"I think it was a good opportunity for him to take a step back and say, 'If I can throw everything into it like that and feel like that, coming out of the game isn't a bad thing because I've left it all out there.' He was terrific tonight. He was amazing, efficient and blew the game open."

LaVine checked out at the 8:55 mark of the third quarter, but returned to the court at 7:22. The Bulls outscored the Thunder 31-15 in the third quarter to build on an 8-point halftime lead.

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"I think we owed them one," LaVine said. "I wanted to try to help put the game away. I've got to get used to playing like that all the time. It's tiring.

The last time these teams met on Jan. 15 in Oklahoma City, the Bulls held a 16-point lead with 4:40 remaining and ended up losing 127-125 in overtime.

Donovan used his revamped starting lineup for the second-straight game, with Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young starting ahead of Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr.

This was the second-straight blowout win using the new lineup, but it's hard to say how effective it is since they've played a couple of short-handed opponents they should have beaten.

The Thunder rested veteran center Al Horford in this one, but his replacement Moses Brown piled up 20 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. Donovan started Carter to start the third quarter because he thought more size was needed to guard Brown.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After the game, Donovan wavered a bit on the short-handed opponent tag.

"I don't want to get into the short-handed stuff, because we've got to play to a certain standard," Donovan said. "We've been short-handed quite a bit too. We've been out Wendell, Lauri (Markkanen) and OP (Otto Porter) for a significant time and now without Garrett. So everybody's dealing with this.

"It's hard maybe to say what we would look like against a full-strength Toronto team or a full-strength Oklahoma City team. Because of COVID, the condensed schedule, rest and all those things, you really don't have the luxury maybe to look at that. So I try to evaluate how we're playing."

The Bulls scored 42 points in the first quarter Tuesday, while hitting 6 of 12 shots from 3-point range. But the Thunder erased the Bulls' 18-point advantage in the second quarter.

Satoransky had a team-high 7 assists, Young nearly posted a triple-double with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, while Markkanen added 22 points.

"Sato's my guy, I think we do have really good chemistry together," LaVine said. "There's plays you can just get by making eye contact. I do that with Thad sometimes too."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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