When the Bulls and Wizards took the court to begin the second half Wednesday night, red streamers hung from the new, state-of-the-art scoreboard, shiny detritus hanging around from the halftime show.
“[Officials] said, ‘We gotta take these down.’ I said, ‘No, let’s play. What are we worried about the streamers for? We got a game to play. They gotta get home. They gotta travel. What are we doing?’” coach Jim Boylen said after the Bulls’ 115-106 victory. “I coached [Wizards coach] Scotty [Brooks] in Houston. So I’ve known Scotty for 25 years. I said, ‘Scotty, you wanna play?’ He said, ‘Let’s play.’ That was it. We played.”
Zach LaVine certainly did. And the Bulls’ guard boosted his chances to make the Feb. 16 All-Star game at the United Center, where, presumably, streamers will be in abundance.
“It would mean a lot. It’s one of my goals,” LaVine said about possibly making his first. “I think it would be great for the city, having one of their own guys there. I don’t feel like I need the verification of it. I think I know where I’m at as a player and how I’ve been player. Even last year, compared to other people, I know how good I am. I think it’s always good to have that solidified, especially when it’s in your home building.”
LaVine is certainly playing like one, outdueling two-time All-Star Bradley Beal, who played despite being a gametime decision with a banged-up shoulder.
LaVine posted his 13th 30-point game of the season, running his streak of scoring 25 or more points to a career-best five games. In the Eastern Conference, only Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 30, and Trae Young, with 26, have posted more 25-point games than LaVine’s 23.
“I think he should be in the game,” Boylen said. “He’s an All-Star caliber player. He’s an All-Star caliber person. He has worked very hard.
“It’s an unbelievable story, too. Wins the dunk contest twice, tears the ACL, comes back and is becoming a two-way player. He’s leading more. He’s communicating more. He’s developing... You look at his crunch-time numbers and the big shots he makes in winning time. I think it’s all right there for him.”
LaVine never has lacked for confidence. And he hasn’t been shy about expressing how much he feels he deserves All-Star status. Heck, he felt he belonged last year, pointing to how his statistics matched favorably with then-Hornets guard Kemba Walker’s.
Now, it’s LaVine who could benefit from the hometown bump — last year’s game was played in Walker’s then-home arena in Charlotte — particularly if NBA commissioner Adam Silver needs to name an injury replacement.
“I expect myself to play this way,” LaVine said. “I put a lot of work in for it. It doesn’t mean a lot to me unless it ends in a win like this. So that feels good.”
About the only blemish on LaVine’s night came when he missed a technical foul shot. That snapped a streak of 26 straight made free throws by LaVine, who didn’t go to the line again.
LaVine added seven assists and seven rebounds, and that’s where his game has shown the most growth this season. His decision-making and ability to read the game stand out.
“That’s what All-Stars do. They give you what they can give you every night,” Boylen said. “I love the scoring part. I like the two-way player part. I like the way he’s knocking balls loose and flying around. I like the way he’s attacking the rim. He’s having a great season. And he’s getting better all the time.”
LaVine sank six 3-pointers. That gives him 16 games with at least four 3-pointers this season, matching Ben Gordon’s franchise record. The Bulls have 40 games to play.
Translated: He’ll break Gordon’s mark.
That wouldn’t bring streamers down from the rafters, but an All-Star appearance might.
“You have to be consistent. I think I have in the past. I have to continue to do that,” LaVine said “I’m in a nice little groove right now. But I got the same mindset every time I step on the floor.”
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