Zach LaVine delivers superstar performance for Bulls in face of criticism

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

If you were worried about him before, I can’t exactly say I blame you, but Zach LaVine proved to the world last night that he’s got plenty left in the tank. In a 101-110 losing effort to the Sacramento Kings, LaVine did all he could to will the Chicago Bulls to victory. While he came up short in the end, it’s games like this that will help dispel the narrative that LaVine cannot lead a team and be the primary offensive weapon for a contender.

LaVine poured in 41 points on an incredible 16-for-28 shooting night, while also contributing an uncharacteristically high 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Although the Bulls’ roster underperformed across the board, LaVine’s singular dominance was enough to keep Chicago in this one right up until the closing moments against one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

Last night was Zach’s first 40-point game in over a year and a half, with the last one coming in May of 2021 against the Brooklyn Nets, where he also coincidentally scored 41 points. This also marks the third 40-point game by a Chicago Bulls player this year, with DeMar DeRozan laying claim to the other two against Boston and Orlando.

However, there’s a concerning trend here amongst these standout performances — they have all ended in losses. This signifies the root of one of Chicago’s biggest problems, in that too many players stand around watching LaVine and DeRozan iso possessions instead of actively partaking in the flow of the offense and looking for shots of their own.

Despite the Bulls not being able to pull off the win against the Kings, Zach LaVine made a big statement to his critics with a superstar performance.

In many ways, the Kings serve as a direct Western Conference reflection of the Bulls. Built around two offensive pillars, both teams know who they want to take the first shot of the game as well as the last shot in the clutch. What happens in between, however, is ultimately what set these two teams apart in the end.

Whereas the Bulls can only count on offensive creation from LaVine, DeRozan, and occasionally Nikola Vucevic and Coby White, the Kings produce a multi-pronged scheme on offense that lets everyone eat. In fact, Fox, Sabonis, Barnes, Monk, Huerter, Murray, and Metu made for a combined total of seven Kings players who scored in the double digits against Chicago.

That number could have easily been eight, as Davion Mitchell finished just one shy with 9 points. Chicago, on the other hand, only had four players register the relatively low benchmark of eight points or more.

There’s no denying the fact that LaVine looked like the best player on the court out there last night. Ironically, I don’t think any Sacramento fan would deny that fact either, as they were famously the ones to offer LaVine the four-year, $80 million contract that Chicago matched back in 2018 in the first place.

But if LaVine wishes to start turning these big games into tangible victories in the win column, he needs to start getting more help from his supporting cast. Whether a change needs to happen internally or by making a trade to switch up the roster is a debate for another day. For now, let’s just enjoy the fact that the vintage version of LaVine actually still exists.

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