Zach LaVine Helps Team USA Grab Their First Win of the 2020 Olympics (and Other Bulls Bullets)

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Zach LaVine Helps Team USA Grab Their First Win of the 2020 Olympics (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

If Team USA lost to Iran early Wednesday morning, I’m pretty sure Joe Biden would have confiscated all basketballs from around the country for at least two weeks.

While Team France has some high-level NBA talent anchoring its roster, the opening loss for Team USA felt borderline disastrous. The group was already coming off an underwhelming 2-2 split during exhibition play in Las Vegas, and they had yet to show true signs of dominance despite having by far the best talent in the competition.

However, to their credit, Team USA bounced back in a big way in Game 2. Is the race for gold back on?

•   Now, to be clear, Team Iran is low on the Olympic totem pole. Like … really low. The country has lost both games thus far and a victory for this struggling Team USA squad was nothing but expected. At the same time, the fashion in which Damian Lillard and Co. took this group down was still encouraging. They kept fighting from start to finish with contributions across the board. The team’s highest-scoring quarter came in the final frame when they dropped 38 points to Iran’s 23. Unlike in their meeting with France, they did not take the foot off the gas. Lillard led the way with 21 points on seven 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Devin Booker (16), Jayson Tatum (14), Zach LaVine (13), Khris Middleton (10), and Kevin Durant (10) all finished in double-figures. As a whole, the team shot 55.3 percent from the field and 48.7 percent from downtown. That’s more like it!

•   LaVine was put back into the second unit as Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker moved into the starting lineup. However, despite a new spot in the rotation, LaVine continued to play a significant role. The Bulls All-Star saw the third-most minutes on the court, and he finished with a game-high 8 assists. LaVine also added five of his 13 points at the free-throw line, which was a team-high. The continued combination of playmaking, aggressive drives, and defensive intensity should be a comforting sight for fans back home in Chicago. LaVine has managed to improve each year of his career, and seeing him focus on some new areas in Tokyo (specifically his defense) could suggest another leap this October. Anyway, you can check out the complete box score here.

•   Up next: Tomas Satoransky. LaVine will play against his teammate on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. CT. France and the Czech Republic battled earlier this morning, and Sato’s crew faced a tough 20-point loss.

•   It’s the drizzle before the storm. A handful of rumors have started to surface ahead of tomorrow night’s draft, but a full-on torrential downpour should come our way later tonight and into tomorrow morning. I’ll do my best to keep you all posted.

•   So I guess we know how accurate that report is.

•  Yippie! Players will no longer be able to throw their bodies into defenders to get to the free-throw line!

•   Thanks for reminding me, Woj! The Chicago Bulls will need to extend Lauri Markkanen his qualifying offer by this weekend, as well as decide whether or not to pick up Ryan Arcidiacono’s $3 million player option. We should expect this front office to hand Markkanen his QO, and we should also expect Markkanen to politely decline. Once he does that, he will officially be listed as a restricted free agent. The Bulls will then be able to match any contract offer thrown his way. No, I don’t expect the team to ultimately do that, but it’s just good business to make sure you maintain control of the asset as long as possible. As for Archie, I have no clue what the front office’s decision will be. The money he is owed could easily be used elsewhere, but it also is not a significant sum. If he ended up sitting on the back of the bench for one more season, it would be fine.

•   The return of the Play-In Tournament is officially official:

•   Smart man.

•   We need a 3×3 NBA tournament, right? The league has been discussing the idea of a midseason tourney for years now, but it feels way too hard to pull off. After all, why would teams/players want to go all out when the playoffs loom? I just do not see how it would be as competitive as Adam Silver wants. A 3×3 tournament, on the other hand, could be a fun All-Star-Weekend-type event where players build their own squads and compete for a little extra cash. If you want to get all 30 teams involved, make each organization pick four representatives (one guy off the bench) to compete. Hey, I know I’d watch.

•   Can’t wait to see Troy Brown Jr. as a steady part of the rotation next season. The dude should be a huge help on the defensive end, but he also has some strong upside as a second unit playmaker.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.