Best duo in the East is back at the UC, and Bulls are green with envy

It will be quite the treat for the United Center crowd on Monday night.

They once again have the opportunity to plop down in a seat, grab some popcorn, and watch the best duo in the East go to work.

Bulls All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine will too, because it isn’t them.

While DeRozan and LaVine can make the argument about being a top five duo in the conference, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown require no debate.

If the East is Gotham, Tatum and Brown are Batman and Robin, and it’s not really close.

Not only because of their age and scoring ability, but the one department that DeRozan and LaVine fall severely short in the comparison – the defensive end.

That’s what makes Boston (3-0) once again a threat to play into June. Not only are Tatum and Brown capable of lighting an opposing defense up for 30 a piece on any given night, but just as easily play prison warden and put opposing scorers in lockdown for 30-plus minutes of hard time.

That’s why their star power shines brighter than anything the Bulls have.

The latest concern coming out of the Saturday loss to Cleveland? How can the Bulls get enough defense from their two stars to make sure the bleeding stops after two straight losses?

DeRozan is what he is at this point of his career. He’s not a lockdown one-on-one defender, but his team defense is above average, and his IQ a strength.

That was on full display late in the loss against the Wizards, when DeRozan stepped in front of a Bradley Beal pass with 33.1 seconds left in the game, and took it to the house for the unopposed dunk. A play that was anticipation more than anything, but one that also gave the Bulls a chance by tying the game.

The issue for the Bulls remained getting LaVine to be a serviceable defender.

Last season at this time, that wasn’t a question. In fact, LaVine was coming off a summer showcase in Team USA’s run for an Olympic gold medal in which he not only emerged as one of the better defenders for that group, but embraced those duties.

That had a carryover effect when he put the red and white jersey back on.

Along with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, LaVine helped the Bulls become one of the more disruptive backcourts in the league. Then when the left knee started flaring up for LaVine, his defense started trending down.

That was supposed to be a distant memory this summer, however, after LaVine had a cleanup surgery in the knee and claimed he felt 100%. The Bulls sure believed it, committing to a five-year, $215 million max contract.

Now, it’s hard to figure out what to believe.

LaVine’s knee issue has him back on a managing schedule, and his defense is back to shaky at best.

Look no further than the third quarter against Cleveland, when coach Billy Donovan pulled LaVine earlier than usual in his rotation. He wouldn’t admit that it was solely because of LaVine’s defense, but also didn’t deny it.

“I think for our team, not just Zach, but collectively as a team, we all need to be better defensively,” Donovan said. “I would throw Zach in there with our team.

“I took him out in the third because I left him in too long in the first. I just wanted to give him off to try and recover.”

Maybe, but it didn’t help that Donovan was also watching a 16-point halftime deficit stretch out to 19 when he made the move. And unfortunately for the Bulls, the uncertainty with LaVine’s knee doesn’t scream for the defensive issues to become a quick fix.

The good news? LaVine and DeRozan will get the opportunity to see how the best duo in basketball does it. Tatum and Brown will make sure of that.

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