When Zach LaVine stepped on the floor at the Fiserv Forum on Sunday night, I have to imagine he took a sizable sigh of relief.
The Chicago Bulls’ 2x All-Star had played the most games in the NBA among active players without a postseason appearance. He must have been thrilled to shake that title off and put together two-straight competitive efforts to leave Milwaukee with a tied series. But I would bet he’s even more thrilled to possibly take the series lead on his home floor.
“I’m looking forward to it,” LaVine told WGN’s Josh Frydman. “I guess it’s going to be loud. I haven’t played at the United Center during the playoffs, so first experience for me. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to go out there and put a show on for them …
We play great at home. I think the fans have given us a lot of motivation. Obviously, going out there impacts us each and every night. It’s Chicago, man, this is home. There is nothing like playing under your own home lights.”
Not only does hearing LaVine say “this is home” burst my heart into a million warm and fuzzy pieces, but I’m downright giddy thinking about what he could contribute to the game tonight.
— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) April 22, 2022
While LaVine’s performance in Game 2 may not have been all that flashy, he still dropped 20 points on an efficient 7-13 performance from the field. His corner 3-pointer with under 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter was a particularly huge bucket to keep the Bucks at arm’s length. All things considered, it was solid growth from his 6-19 performance in Game, and one has to wonder if he’s now comfortable enough to explode in Game 3.
With the home crowd rocking behind him, this feels like a prime opportunity for LaVine to take the Bulls by the horn (pun intended). DeMar DeRozan led the team to victory with his 41-point career-high playoff performance on Wednesday night, and I have to imagine that will draw him extra attention from the Bucks’ defense this time out. Not to mention, Milwaukee is now done a lengthy and athletic presence in Khris Middleton, which could potentially open up that many more driving lanes for LaVine and Co. to hunt.
The opportunity for LaVine – a player who is on the brink of a max contract with the organization – to further ingrain himself in the Bulls’ franchise is there for the taking. I’m glad to hear he’s excited to seize that moment, and I’m even more glad to hear he understands the mentality it will take:
Zach LaVine on G3: "This is one of the most important games of the series. Us coming off a win + them coming off a loss is crucial. They're gonna be coming in with a hungry mentality. You don't want human nature to set in and take a step back. We gotta come in like we're down."
— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) April 22, 2022
Put on a show, Zach!