A dozen games into the season, and the Chicago Bulls sit at 6-6 after splitting a quick 2-game back-to-back with the Toronto Raptors.
In the first matchup, Toronto came a way with the win. Monday night, though, it was the Zach LaVine show — en route to a 111-97 victory.
For two games, the Bulls saw Toronto consistently bring double teams to DeMar DeRozan, and in this second contest, the Bulls swing man only finished with nine points and took a mere six shots.
However, LaVine and DeRozan know how to work off of each other when teams choose to focus on one of them, and that’s exactly what transpired. LaVine went off for 30 points in a well-rounded performance where he scored from all over the floor. He knocked down 4-of-8 from three-point land, hit step-back jumpers and, yes, finished at the hoop occasionally.
After the game, LaVine seemed to reiterate his firm stance that, if it was up to him, he’d be playing in every game this season instead of only playing once in back-to-backs.
Zach LaVine may be turning the corner with his nagging knee issues, and the Chicago Bulls could have something to look forward to.
For the early stages of this season, the plan has been to keep LaVine fresh and monitor his minutes, especially when it comes in back-to-backs. LaVine was never going to play in both games when the Bulls have to endure those quick turnarounds.
However, that tide may be changing if LaVine is starting to look and feel more like himself.
If LaVine is able to come off of his restrictions and his knee is feeling that much better, then the Bulls will hopefully be at full strength as they try to endure a brutal Eastern Conference playoff race throughout this season. Not always having LaVine on the floor is tough, and can mess with the team’s rhythm, so having him around at full strength would allow the Bulls to find their groove more easily.
In eight out of 12 games this year, the Bulls have had LaVine. In those eight games, LaVine has averaged 21.9 points, 4.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He’s shooting a modest 44 percent from the floor, yet knocking down over 43 percent from long distance.
If LaVine can continue to evolve his game into more of a shooter, especially within the midrange, he’ll have a much better shot at prolonging his career rather than living above the rim — and the Bulls will be better off for it, too.
In order for the Bulls to take a big step forward, it’s going to have to be LaVine who takes them there. He has to prove he can be that guy.