The duo continued looking like an unstoppable force in the 130-118 win, almost taking turns destroying the opposition. Just to make sure Atlanta couldn’t come back? Nikola Vucevic jumped into the mix.
It almost feels scripted at times this season.
As if Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan huddle before each game, and plot how they are going to take turns dissecting opposing defenders.
“OK, you had the fourth yesterday, so I’ll take the first tonight, you kill ‘em in the second … ‘’
A bit, but there is also some truth to it for the Bulls duo. Just call it more spur-of-the-moment than planned.
That was the case Sunday, as Indiana was trying to make a comeback late, and LaVine silenced it with 12 fourth-quarter points.
“The three of us spoke about what we wanted to do the next couple minutes offensively, and DeMar said, ‘Hey listen, Zach has it going, let me space off of him and play off of what he does … let’s keep him going,’ ‘’ acting head coach Chris Fleming recalled of how the Bulls finished off the Pacers. “That’s kind of the attitude both of those guys have toward each other.’’
It continued in the 130-118 win over the Hawks on Monday, as LaVine and DeRozan remained one of the more lethal tag teams in the NBA this season, forcing the opposition to decide on which poison to pick.
In the opening quarter it was back to DeRozan, as the veteran forward put up 15 in that first stanza, and did so efficiently, connecting on both three-pointers he took, and going 5-for-6 from the field.
Then in the second with the Bulls trailing, the LaVine takeover happened, as the All-Star guard not only helped run the surging Hawks down, but passed them on the scoreboard, as his 17 second-quarter points gave the visiting team the 69-63 halftime lead.
A lead that wasn’t really pressed until midway into the fourth, when the Hawks cut it to just three.
No worries, as Atlanta tried to shrink the floor on DeRozan the scorer, forcing him to switch hats to play-maker. All he did was feed Nikola Vucevic for back-to-back three-pointers, and then made a 13-footer for himself to hold off the Atlanta flurry.
Just to make sure, he then hit LaVine on a crafty alley-oop pass, seemingly draining the Hawks’ hopes of any sort of comeback.
By the time the fourth quarter ended, DeRozan had 12 points and three assists.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” LaVine said of back-and-forth he and DeRozan drop on teams. “He’s been incredible in the fourth quarter, so it’s been easy for me to almost be like, ‘Get him the ball and get out of the way.’ Because coming up to this point, I haven’t won like this, and this has been the best feeling I’ve had of winning. So it’s been real easy for me.
“We had that conversation before the season. Obviously, there’s going to be nights where I have it, he has it.’’
Then there’s Monday, where it felt like each of the Bulls’ “Big Three’’ had it. DeRozan led the Bulls (21-10) with 35 points, LaVine had 30, but Vucevic also left a big footprint on the game, finishing with 24, including 13 in the fourth.
And it wasn’t just the big man’s scoring. How about 17 rebounds, six assists, four blocked shots and four three-pointers? When it was pointed out to him that it was a stat line never achieved in the NBA, Vucevic gave a very Vucevic reply.
‘It’s nice to hear, but when it comes to those stats you can make up a stat with anything nowadays,’’ Vucevic said. “I feel like stats should be like generally five, 10, 15, 20, 25, so they’re consistent. I’m glad I played well and had a good all-around game that helped us win, but as far as that I don’t necessarily care to be the only player to ever do it.’’