SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The reserves helped turn an early 11-point deficit into a 16-point lead before halftime.
Coach Jim Boylen said the box score represented his vision for how he wants his Bulls to play — going 10-deep and with contributions from everybody.
But the NBA is about teams’ best players playing their best. And for the first time this season, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen each scored at least 20 points in the same game.
Is it any wonder the Bulls snapped a three-game skid with a 113-106 victory over the Kings to cap a 1-2 trip?
“It’s long overdue,” LaVine said of Markkanen posting his third 20-point game this season. “We’ve been looking for it. We’ve been encouraging him. He had a great game. He needs to play like that all the time. He’s capable of it.”
Markkanen tied his season high with four 3-pointers and sank four critical free throws late as part of his 20 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“That’s a big game for him. We were looking for him,” LaVine said. “I think me and him started doing some more two-man game stuff, even if we had to break a little bit of offense up. Two-man game with me and him is deadly because if they’re helping off me, they’re going to leave a great shooter open. I’m excited.”
Markkanen agreed he and LaVine ran more pick-and-rolls together. LaVine finished with 28 points and for the second straight game attempted at least 10 free throws. Both players shot better than 50 percent.
“Zach has been doing his part,” Markkanen said of joining LaVine in the 20-point club. “We talked about playing our game and we ended up being in a couple pick-and-rolls more than we’ve been this year. We talked about it before the game. We’ve kind of gotten away from that.
“I don’t want to be one who just shoots 3s. That’s what I’ve kind of been. I’ve been trying to find my spots and it’s been a lot of 3s. I’m glad I got to the rim a couple times.”
The contributions of the reserves can’t be ignored. Coby White, Thad Young, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford all finished with positive plus-minus designations, while, in a rarity for a victory, all five starters finished with minus designations.
“If you look at the box score, that’s how we envisioned this group of guys to look — contributions from everybody,” Boylen said. “A real solid game from Zach. A real solid game from Lauri. A double-double from Wendell [Carter]. Sato [Tomas Satoransky] gets 14 [points] and 5 [assists]. That’s what we hope it can be. And we hope it can be that more consistently.”
But at the end of the day, the Bulls will only go as far as LaVine and Markkanen take them. They’re the most important players. That’s just how the NBA works.
“When he gets on a roll, they have to guard the whole floor,” LaVine said of Markkanen. “He shouldn’t be in this slump for that long. We need to help him get out of it. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of that. We had to do a little more two-man game and find him early. Once he made his first two, he looked like the old Lauri. Hopefully it’s wheels up from there.”
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