Bulls Duo Makes Franchise History, LaVine is Confident in His Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Bulls Duo Makes Franchise History, LaVine is Confident in His Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Less than 24 hours after DeMar DeRozan played 52 minutes and Zach LaVine played 47 minutes, the Chicago Bulls will face the 38-33 Miami Heat.

This should be … um … interesting!

  • Both the Bulls and Timberwolves resembled me at my freshman-year homecoming last night. They may not have looked the cleanest or most put together, but at least they were trying hard! The game was undoubtedly one the more entertaining of the season for Chicago (and, yes I know the bar is pretty darn low). It was especially encouraging to see them avoid a complete collapse in the clutch. Not only did the Bulls enter the night with the second-most clutch losses, but they were 1-4 in their previous OT games this season.
  • Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan were the primary reason that Chicago’s fate turned. DeRozan dropped a season-high 49 points on 15-25 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and 3 steals. The T-Wolves had absolutely no answer for his mid-range game, as he went 11-16 from his favorite spot on the floor. But it was also his ability to take a page out of the Zach LaVine Textbook and pound the paint that made a real difference. He showed zero fear attacking Rudy Gobert and got the free-throw line for an absurd 17-18 performance. He alone went 13-14 over the second half and two OTs.
  • Speaking of LaVine, I got to give him some major props for not letting another rough first half throw him out of sync. He started the night just 3-8 from the floor with 10 points over the initial two quarters. Then, he entered NBA Jam Mode. LaVine looked like a legitimate superstar during the second half and OT. He shot an absurd 70.6 percent on his way to 29 points and also had some crucial defensive stands.
  • Indeed, he first hustled to stay in front of Kyle Anderson and wall off the paint to force a double-dribble at the end of the 4th quarter. Then, with the chance for the T-Wolves to win the game again at the end of OT, LaVine locked in on Mike Conley to keep the red-hot shooter from getting a chance to throw up a shot. After the game, LaVine didn’t hesitate to let people know that he believes in his defensive capabilities:

“People can talk about my defense all they want to,” LaVine told Bulls dot com. “I’ve always been one of the best on-ball defenders. One-on-one situations, there’s not a lot of people that are going to get by me.”

  • I certainly wouldn’t go as far as to call him one of the best on-ball defenders, but the sentiment isn’t totally wrong. LaVine has always been better than he’s given credit for at staying in front of guys. The issue has long been his off-ball awareness and overall effort. While I can understand that it is important for him to reserve energy for the offensive end, there is no doubt he can still play harder at times defensively.
  • Another area that LaVine hasn’t gotten proper credit for – particularly in recent weeks – has been his strides as a distributor. Again, I’m not claiming that this is an elite skill, but he’s shown legitimate growth when it comes to finding his teammates in their spots. He dropped 5 assists last night, which included a couple of really well-timed feeds to Vucevic and another cross-court dime to DeRozan. The fact that he can do this is just another reason why it’s so important for him to stay in attack mode offensively. The more he does that, the more the defense is going to have to leave other guys open.

  • So, if you’re keeping track, DeRozan and LaVine combined for 88 of the team’s 139 points. According to the Bulls, that is the most points ever scored by a duo in franchise history. Yes, you read that right. Not even MJ and Scottie managed to pull that off!

  • With that said, DeRozan and LaVine did join Jordan and Pippen as the only pair of teammates to each score 39 points in the same game, per Bulls PR (h/t K.C. Johnson)

  • This is why it’s impossible not to love DeRozan …

  • As I said, last night’s game wasn’t the cleanest. Not only did the refs make some boneheaded calls, but the Timberwolves shot themselves in the foot several times. For example, Taurean Prince made one of the most bizarre decisions that we’ve seen all season long. With 20 seconds to go in OT and his squad up two, Prince threw the ball to absolutely no one. Patrick Beverley then got his mitts on it and threw it ahead to LaVine for him to tie the game with a strong finish. We also watched the Bulls get called for an 8-second violation down 2 points with 45 seconds to go in the 4th quarter and the refs call a phantom jump ball in the second OT.
  • Here’s the 8-second …

  • And here’s the jump ball. I know, WTF!

  • So … should we label this an impressive win? No. But considering I expect this team to lose basically every single game now, I tip my hat to them for pulling this off. It moved them back into 10th place thanks to a Wizards loss to the Cavaliers, and they’ll now have a chance to possibly gain even more ground with a win over Miami (who they happen to be 2-0 against so far this season).
  • Pat Bev is a madman.

  • The NBA Draft combine and lottery is coming back to Chicago! Only if either meant more for the Bulls. *sigh*

  • A Packer turned Bear …

  • I like positivity!

Author: Elias Schuster

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