Zach LaVine pushed controversy aside in miracle win over Hornets, but the Bulls' season is far from saved

Zach LaVine pushed controversy aside in miracle win over Hornets, but the Bulls' season is far from saved

CHARLOTTE — Give the Bulls this. They’re not boring.

One night after Jim Boylen benched Zach LaVine early and LaVine sounded off about it, LaVine authored a performance for the ages, capping an improbable victory with his franchise-record 13th three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left for a career-high 49 points.

Bulls 116, Hornets 115. Even many of the players who played in the game couldn’t believe the finish.

The Hornets led by eight with 45.4 seconds left. LaVine sandwiched two 3-pointers, the second of which banked in from 34 feet, around two Terry Rozier free throws. Coby White, who scored a season-high 28 points, scored on a driving layup after Rozier split two free throws. Tomas Satoransky sank a clutch three-pointer with 7 seconds left after Devonte Graham sank two free throws.

And then White, Ryan Arcidiacono and LaVine all swarmed Graham on the ensuing inbounds, with White getting credited for a steal that even the principal defenders said was impossible to attribute. The loose ball caromed to LaVine, who eschewed a layup and, a la Reggie Miller, dribbled out to the three-point line and let it fly.

“Sato hit a big three. We doubled the ball. Arch knocked it away or something happened. And I just pretty much said, ‘(Expletive) it. I’m going for the game,’” LaVine said. “Once I shot it, I knew it was cash. That was the craziest game I’ve been a part of.”

In as boisterous a postgame locker room as there has been all season, Thaddeus Young, in an old school move, loudly petitioned for LaVine to star in a new NBA “Where Amazing Happens” commercial. Arcidiacono asked if anybody noticed if he and LaVine combined for 49 points. White said he couldn’t stop shaking.

“I’ve been a part of a crazy game with the national championship in college. But this is just a ridiculous performance by Zach and a tough, gritty win by our team,” said Arcidiacono, who closed over an ineffective Lauri Markkanen. “Keep fighting until there’s zero on the clock. You never know what can happen if you play hard.”

LaVine and Boylen met in Boylen’s hotel suite Saturday afternoon to discuss their issues. That LaVine responded by joining Klay Thompson and Steph Curry as the only three players in NBA history to make 13 three-pointers in a game needs to be more than a band-aid. It can’t be a temporary fix.

The Bulls need to build on such an improbable and thrilling victory.

“When you have a turnaround game like this, hopefully it can be a turnaround for our season,” Satoransky said. “We haven’t won two [games] in a row. That’s our focus for Monday. This comeback shows you we can believe in each other.”

Make no mistake. Issues remain. The Bulls’ aggressive defensive coverages repeatedly left three-point shooters wide open or led to uncontested dunks. The Hornets, who trailed by 14 points in the first half, shot 68.4 percent in the second half.

And what to do about Markkanen? He missed eight of nine shots, scored a meager three points and went up to the scorer’s table in the fourth quarter, only to be called back during a timeout and sat for Arcidiacono.

“We had just made a three and I just didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Boylen said about his personnel decision. “Lauri didn’t do anything wrong. There wasn’t an issue. It was just that that group was rolling. I kind of went with my gut and feel. We were giving them some two-pointers in the post but because of our small lineup, we were getting three-pointers on the other end.”

About those three-pointers: The Bulls sank a franchise-record 22. None were bigger than LaVine’s game-winner, which he equated to hitting a walkoff homerun.

“I just blacked out. We were celebrating, talking a lot, lot of explicit words running off the court. It was fun, man. That’s an unbelievable win,” LaVine said. “Shooters shoot. I got hot and kept putting them in the basket. I didn’t know how many I had. I just knew I was going to keep shooting them.”

LaVine acknowledged the need for this victory not to represent a stopgap, the need to build on such an unlikely finish.

“This is a big game for us, morally. Everybody’s energy is up,” he said. “We’ve been playing good in stretches. We just executed perfectly down the stretch. Obviously, we got blessed a little with some luck. We can take this energy and move this on to the next game, keep this energy high. Hopefully this is that turning point for us. Every team has one. This could be a big step for us in the right direction.”

That’s the thing: Controversy drops back below the surface when teams win. It’s on the Bulls to make sure that continues.

“He is always good when we coach him and talk to him,” Boylen said of LaVine’s crazy 24 hours from Friday to Saturday. “He wants to play better. I want him to play better. And I am really happy for him.”

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Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.

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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time


Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: