Zach LaVine Comes Through In Clutch For Bulls

LaVine hit the game-winner with 2.0 seconds left to beat the Clippers.

Cody Westerlund
December 14, 2019 - 11:38 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- On the day that management reaffirmed its commitment to and belief in embattled coach Jim Boylen, Zach LaVine played the hero’s role as the Bulls at long last beat a winning team.

LaVine scored six of his game-high 31 points in the final 84 seconds, including an old-fashioned three-point play with 2.0 seconds left to break a tie and lift the Bulls to a 109-106 win against the Clippers at the United Center on Saturday night. The victory was much-needed for a reeling Bulls team, which improved to 10-18 and beat a team above .500 for the first time since last March 6.

“We’ve been playing good, we just hadn’t been able to get that win in the last two, the last three minutes of the game,” LaVine said. “It feels good to go out on a high note. Hopefully we can start stringing some together.”

LaVine’s winning bucket came off an inbounds pass with 5.4 seconds left after Denzel Valentine had earlier tied the game at 106-all with a 3-pointer with 48.3 seconds left off a wild scramble for a rebound.

Clippers star Paul George – one of the NBA’s premier defenders – flanked LaVine, but George fell a step behind when inbounder Kris Dunn crossed paths with him. Rodney McGruder didn’t pick up LaVine on a potential switch, and LaVine then had a strong finish through contact from Montrezl Harrell near the rim.

LaVine credited Dunn – whose defense helped the Bulls get several key stops late – for creating the “misdirection” to get him space.

“Tried to run his guy off, and that’s what I did,” Dunn said. “And Zach made a big-time play. I knew Zach was going to get downhill once I saw Paul George look at me. And once you do that, the guard can get space to get downhill.”

LaVine’s heroics came after he’d twice failed to come through in crunch time in the previous eight days. In a two-point loss to the Warriors on Dec. 6, LaVine waved off a screen to go one-on-one and missed a go-ahead 3-point attempt in the waning seconds. In a one-point loss to the Raptors on Monday, LaVine got to the edge of the paint but forced up a difficult shot that missed on the Bulls’ final possession.

In the aftermath, he admitted he should’ve passed the ball in that situation. LaVine was happy to get another chance with the game on the line Saturday.

“You wish you could be perfect, but obviously I’ll take that challenge, I’ll take the criticism,” Boylen said. “I’ll take the ‘good job’ as well. But just because I had a couple games where it didn’t go in the hole or I didn’t make the right decision doesn’t mean that I’m not ready to take that challenge again. I’ve made big shots throughout my whole career. I’ll step up to the plate.”

That the Clippers (20-8) were missing Kawhi Leonard (left knee soreness), Patrick Beverley (concussion) and Lou Williams (right calf soreness) mattered not to Boylen, who produced a quote to remember when asked a question about those use may use the “yeah, but…” logic because of the opponent’s many injuries.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto), Hutch or Gafford,” Boylen said in referencing the injured Otto Porter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and Daniel Gafford. “So we can ‘yeah but it’ a little bit too.”

What was more significant for Boylen was that earlier in the day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson gave Boylen a vote of confidence. The Bulls remain committed to Boylen and aren’t considering a coaching change despite their disastrous start, Paxson told multiple media outlets.

“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t expect anything less from John,” Boylen said. “We understand what we’re trying to do. We are in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like. I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’m thankful for it, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.