Lonzo puts an end to LaMelo's comeback bid in Bulls victory
Lavar Ball has not been as vocal publicly as he was when his three sons burst onto the basketball scene several years ago.
But he was courtside Monday night at the United Center, wearing a hat that read "I told you so," watching Lonzo's Bulls battle LaMelo's Charlotte Hornets.
The result was a relatively smooth 133-119 Bulls victory. But the way the fourth quarter evolved, with first LaMelo and then Lonzo passing their teams into big runs, this was definitely something unusual.
Lonzo finished with 16 points and 8 assists, hitting 4 of 5 shots from 3-point range. LaMelo piled up 13 assists, to go with 18 points and 7 rebounds.
LaMelo had 5 assists and one made layup when the Hornets knocked the Bulls' 23-point lead down to 4 midway through the fourth quarter. Lonzo responded with an assist, steal and 2 assists to create a quick 7-0 answer for the Bulls.
"I play to win, so obviously I'm happy that we got the win tonight," Lonzo said. "Melo's a great player. He's going to do what he can do to help his team win games, but ultimately we want to win, and that's what we did tonight."
The other significant development for the Bulls was the return of 3-point shooting by center Nikola Vucevic. He went 6-for-6 from long range, scored a season-high 30 points, to go with 14 rebounds and 5 assists. Vucevic came into the game shooting 23.6% from long range. It was his second 30-point game since joining the Bulls last season. DeMar DeRozan added 28 points.
The Bulls lead peaked at 102-79 with 2:15 left in the third quarter and the final result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. But LaMelo and the Hornets were in no mood to coast. They scored points on 10 of their first 11 possessions in the fourth quarter to close within 110-106 with 7:31 remaining.
After a timeout, the Bulls put together a response. First, Lonzo drove the baseline and lobbed a pass to Vucevic for a lay-in. Coby White added a fastbreak lay-in off a Lonzo steal and assist, then White added a 3 off another Lonzo assist to bring the lead back to 117-106.
When the game began, fans got into the mood by cheering the Ball brothers guarding each other right after the opening tip.
"It's always marked on the calendar since he came into the league, who's the better Ball brother, but like I said I play to win," Lonzo said. "We are brothers and it's all love off the court, but on the court he's got a job he's got to do, I've got a job I've got to do and we're both big parts of our team."
Zach LaVine was listed as a game-time decision after coming down with an illness that caused him to miss shootaround. LaVine played and scored 25 points in 35 minutes.
"He made the decision and medical was OK with it," coach Billy Donovan said. "I think he was running a fever, I don't know how much it was a factor. Physically, you could tell he was sick. His eyes were all bloodshot. I don't think he was feeling great at all. I give him a lot of credit for going out there and playing."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports