The Zach LaVine Show can be tremendous fun. But, every once in a while, even he needs a little help from his friends.
Against the Timberwolves, he got just enough. Including he and Lauri Markkanen — who eclipsed 20 points for the tenth time this season — the Bulls got double-digit scoring contributions from six players; Luke Kornet (15), Kris Dunn (14), Coby White (12) and Cristiano Felicio (12). Chandler Hutchison chipped in nine points and three steals, to boot.
"It helped us out a lot, especially when you can go deep into your bench like that," LaVine said. "I feel like that's how you can beat teams."
That's especially true on a night when LaVine wasn't his most prolific. He ended the game with 25 points, but with two-and-a-half minutes remaining and the Bulls trailing 105-104, he had just 18 on 6-for-15 shooting. As LaVine is wont to do, he did close the game out with seven of the Bulls' last 13 points, but credit the ancillary guys for keeping the team afloat during the meat of the game. A Bulls bench that had largely lost its umph since Dunn's insertion into the starting lineup outscored the Timberwolves' reserves 40-17.
"I think our second unit picked up our starters, and we obviously finished it out," LaVine said.
"It's really important to have everyone be able to step up, and you never kinda know night to night who it's gonna be," Kornet said. "Tonight was one of the more well-rounded games in that aspect and I feel like that's when you're the most difficult to play."
Kornet has now scored in double-figures in four of his last five games. Felicio's 12 points and 10 rebounds were both more than the nine points and seven rebounds he had this season entering play. Neither offered much resistance against Karl-Anthony Towns (40 points, 16-for-24 shooting), but neither were thought to be contributing pieces as recently as a month ago. Their 27 combined points offset the Wolves' star as much as one could hope.
"I'm grateful for it," Jim Boylen said of the two's play. "The center position for us in our system is very important."
Boylen also continued to tinker with his rotations, relying heavily on an ultra-small lineup of Tomas Satoransky, LaVine, Dunn, White and Markkanen down the stretch. He turned to it with the Bulls leading 104-103. Then, over three game minutes, they extended the lead to 113-108, essentially icing the game.
"I just thought we needed to score, we weren't gonna change our coverages unless we went to the switch and that group," Boylen said. "We just could not go through a drought in those last four minutes."
It's a win that befit what's been a tumultuous month of January. Even in victory, there was much to lament. A 19-point first half lead melted, giving way for a much-too-tense second half. Head-scratching mistakes continued to abound. In the eyes of many — especially the Bulls — this should have been a rout.
But it's hard to gripe too much. The win moves the Bulls to 4-8 in January.
"It's not progress that we let them back into the game," Markkanen said. "But it's nice to be able to pull the win down the stretch."
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