While the stat line that the Chicago Bulls star 25-year-old shooting guard Zach LaVine posted on the night of Feb. 19 looked good on the surface, he wasn’t the most efficient shooting from the field or beyond the arc. LaVine did make up for his rather inefficient shooting performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 19 by going a perfect 10-of-10 on attempts from the charity stripe.
Just because LaVine shot well from the charity stripe did not mean that he gave the Bulls enough to overcome a career 50 point night from the Sixers superstar center Joel Embiid. LaVine gave the Bulls a team-high 30 points, to go along with five rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block, and four turnovers.
And LaVine shot 9-of-28 from the field, 2-of-10 from beyond the arc, and the aforementioned perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line. Not only was LaVine’s whopping 28 field goal attempts in this game his highest mark of the regular season to date, it was one of his five least efficient shooting performances thus far.
So what was the deciding factor that helped the Sixers be so effective in defending LaVine, while taking nearly 30 attempts from the field?
Sixers success in defending the Chicago Bulls star
Following the Sixers 112-105 win over the Bulls on the night of Feb. 19, head coach Doc Rivers stated that he had a “secret sauce” in defending LaVine. A piece from Rich Hofmann of The Athletic on Feb. 20 (paid content) confirmed that Rivers went with the strategy of using defensive standout guard/wing Matisse Thybulle to shut down the hot LaVine.
It wasn’t the offensive production that the Sixers were looking for out of Thybulle by playing him as their starting point guard in this game. Thybulle got the start at the one with Sixers star point guard Ben Simmons absent due to injury for his defensive presence in matching up with LaVine.
Thybulle only provided the Sixers with two assists and one turnover as their starting point guard. But the ability to hold LaVine to such a poor shooting night, compared to what he’s accustomed to so far this season, was more than enough reason to give him the start.
Is this a strategy that other teams will be able to use moving forward on LaVine?
Maybe not if the Bulls can get heightened offensive production from the likes of rookie forward Patrick Williams and second-year point guard Coby White. But the likes of Williams and White haven’t played all that well in the last two games for the Bulls.
After the seven-point loss to the Sixers on Feb. 19, the Bulls now sport a record of 12-16. That loss snapped their two-game winning streak heading into the weekend. And the Bulls get the also 12-16 Sacramento Kings at home at the United Center on Feb. 20 in the back end of back-to-back games.