Bulls

Zach LaVine's run of 20-point games ends as he 'tries to play right way'

Zach LaVine's run of 20-point games ends as he 'tries to play right way'

TORONTO — Zach LaVine can’t win for losing.

On a night an expert defense like the Raptors swarmed him and limited his looks, LaVine didn’t force shots and posted seven assists with just 10 field goal attempts.

And then, with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left and the Bulls down 25, coach Jim Boylen substituted his starters with LaVine stuck on 18 points.

It’s a small thing, to be sure, and neither LaVine nor the Bulls are worried about individual statistics. But LaVine’s career-long streak of 20-point outings ended at 17 games on a night he put the team first.

“I was just trying to play the right way,” LaVine said. “When I got in the pick-and-roll or got by the first defender, they were sending two or three [defenders] in the paint. They know how to take away the first option. They’re going to take the ball out of my hand or show gaps to try to make me force shots.

“Try to kick it to the open teammate. It’s a balance. I thought I created some open shots. But throughout the flow of the game, I guess I could’ve been a little more aggressive.”

LaVine wore a glum look as the final minutes ticked away. The proud player always takes losing hard. Did losing the streak also bother him?

“I was just upset man. It gets frustrating when you lose. I’ve been going through it the last three years here,” he said. “I’m like anybody else. We’re human. You have human reactions and feelings. You’re going to get frustrated.”

Sunday also marked an atypical game for Thaddeus Young. He scored a season-high 21 points along with seven rebounds but drew an uncharacteristic technical foul and also fouled out when Raptors coach Nick Nurse won a coach’s challenge to overturn a call on which Young drew a charge.

“I don’t think I should’ve got a tech. It happens,” Young said. “All I told him was I thought it was a bad call. And I don’t really argue calls. And he gave me a tech. It happens. I tried to move past it.

“You get angry when you feel things are not going your way. You get angry when you feel like it was a bad call or you’re not getting something on one end and it’s on the other. That’s one of those things where throughout the course of the game, it’s a feeling. We have to put our emotions aside and continue to play.

“Me personally, yeah, this is probably one of the games where I was more angry or more mad than usual. Nobody’s perfect.”

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Bulls observations: The full Dennis Rodman experience sends Knicks packing

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls observations: The full Dennis Rodman experience sends Knicks packing

The Knicks are hitting the links and the Bulls are going to the Eastern Conference Finals. Observations:

A splendid series for Dennis Rodman

This series felt like the full Dennis Rodman experience, and it was delightful. In terms of production, he averaged 15.6 rebounds (4.8 offensive) across five games and dished two game-swinging assists to close out Game 4 at The Garden. As a team, the Bulls were +39 on the boards (winning the offensive glass 84-45) in the series.

In the clincher, Rodman posted 11 points and 12 rebounds — relatively pedestrian by his standards. But he was omnipresent throughout nonetheless, a whirlwind of limbs careening into every rebound scrum, passing lane and screen set. His swagger and unbridled joy for the game were on full display, too:

 

 

Every foul call (there were six in this one, plus an ejection) drew a performance. Every bump from a Knicks player elicited subtle retaliation. And every move he made was met by raucous cheers from the home crowd. Chicago really loved Rodman, and he earned it every time he stepped on the floor.

It all culminated with a litany of peak Dennis moments in the fourth quarter. With just over four minutes left to play, he leapt down the floor and into Luc Longley’s arms after a fastbreak Longley dunk that he assisted put the Bulls up 13. Moments later, he sealed the game for good with a layup to similar celebration (this time, Ron Harper got the hug). 

And the coups de gras: With about a minute left and the game out of reach, he picked up a suspect second technical (which led to an ejection) after he had committed a sixth personal foul. A fiery exit and impassioned jersey chuck into the frenzied UC stands capped it off. All in a day’s work for The Worm. His evolution from fierce rival to beloved anti-hero is truly something to behold.

 

Unfortunately, NBC Sports Chicago wasn’t able to get the reel from this game’s ‘Walk of Shame’ but we’re sure it was as entertaining as ever after this one.

“Playing in the mud”

Those were Tom Dore’s words early in the fourth quarter, and boy were they apt. For this game and the entire series. 

Without fail, mid-90s Bulls-Knicks seems to be a recipe for slog. A fistfight where all the blows are contested midrange jumpers and wild elbows. Only once in the series did a team reach 100 points (the Knicks, in Game 3). In this one, the Knicks hit their first 3-pointer with just outside of a minute remaining in the third quarter (finishing 2-for-13 overall). 

Man, how times have changed: 

 

But ultimately, this series amounts to another whooping, one the Knicks appeared noticeably demoralized by the end of. The Bulls’ swagger is just unmatched. We’ve detailed Rodman’s individual exploits, but there really is a collective feeling of inevitability when this team gets rolling, as they did in the second half of this game. Somehow, Michael Jordan’s 36-point average in this series felt under-the-radar, but he was capable of ripping New York’s hearts out seemingly on a whim.  

And beyond even the players, this team’s energy seemed to seep into the city around them. At one point in this game, cameras panned to a fan-posted ‘Title Ticker’ on the UC wall, counting down the numbers of wins remaining until another Bulls championship. “Another One Bites the Dust” blared as the Knicks sauntered off, defeated. Even from afar, it’s apparent that this dynasty was a full-city effort.

And another late-series gem, from Johnny “Red” Kerr: 

So long, Knickerbockers.

Passing thoughts

  • Jordan (35 points, 5 assists) and Pippen (15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals) remain absolutely ridiculous. And Ron Harper, who poured in an impactful 12, is still one of my biggest personal revelations from this Rewind run. Couldn’t go this whole post without shouting out their nights.

  • We had a sad, then animated, then sad again Spike Lee make multiple appearances throughout this one. You simply have to respect the grind.

  • Seriously. Bring back the classic Bulls intro theme. I’ll never ask for anything again.

  • Uh, what?

 

See you Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

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Report: NBA planning players-only 2K tournament broadcast on ESPN

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USA TODAY

Report: NBA planning players-only 2K tournament broadcast on ESPN

Starting to feel the effects after nearly three weeks without live sports? The NBA and ESPN are reportedly teaming up to offer a solution.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, the NBA is planning a players-only 2K tournament to be broadcast on ESPN this Friday, April 3.

Though the league is still reportedly finalizing the details of the tourney, Haynes wrote the showcase could include some "big-name players."

That begs the question: Could Zach LaVine be one of them?

Who knows! But some signs point to it being a possibility. LaVine, after all, has participated in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare tournaments hosted by SLAM two weeks in a row, and told Sam Smith of Bulls.com (in a feature published Monday morning) that he's currently exploring starting his own Twitch channel.

"I play a lot of video games and obviously the big thing now is people are getting into the video game community. I'm starting to do that as well," LaVine told Smith. "I'm creating my own Twitch account because I play video games so much, anyway, and I have a pretty big following with that."

If LaVine does get and accept an invite, it would certainly make for an entertaining distraction for Bulls fans. Either way, this is must-watch television.

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