We only had to see the performance of Zach LaVine, one night after being benched early by his coach for bad defense, to know there is a higher power at play even on an NBA basketball court.
“We just got to keep pushing them to a place that they can’t take themselves”.
Jim Boylen’s said those words after the embarrassing 116-108 loss Friday night to the Miami Heat. He had taken Zach LaVine out early in the first quarter, in what seemed like a strong message was being sent, and the Heat was now on him from the media.
At the time, it sounded like the usual Boylen post game answer. To Zach LaVine it meant getting in touch with his higher power and showing up with an “I’ll show you” attitude.
In what was hands down the most exciting and inspirational game of the season, LaVine soared to 49 points and connected on a Bulls record 13 three pointers including the game winner against the Charlotte Hornets last night. It spoke volumes of what Zach LaVine can do when his mind is set on it.
Coby White also came up big with 28 points. He has posted double figures nine out of the last ten games and is becoming a dependable scorer off the bench.
The two guards had 77 of the Bulls total 116 points. A comeback victory after squandering their own 14 lead, only reinforced the mantra that they “can do it”. That confidence is another necessary building block. The second half of fourth quarters have been a nightmare for the Bulls.
We know that LaVine and White can go off at any moment. There are other positives to acknowledge. Wendell Carter is slowly becoming a double-double machine at center. The second team back court of Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono, have kept games close with hustle and gritty defense. Even Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young are starting to look more comfortable with their new team.
The team is still trying to find an identity though. The Portland Trailblazers are up next at the United Center. It will be interesting to see how the young Bulls respond after such an emotional win.
The next step is to find a more balanced attack. Zach LaVine cannot be counted on to score forty points a game. Lauri Markkanen must find his groove which would immediately upgrade the offense.
The small forward position has to solidify. Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison can’t seem to stay healthy enough to play and Denzel Valentine has not been given much of an opportunity to crack the rotation.
Daniel Gafford has done a nice job providing help defense and offensive rebounding at center but the Bulls need to do a better job of hitting shots in the paint as well as securing defensive rebounds.
The Trailblazers come into town Monday night for the sixth and last game of a road trip that includes a current four game losing streak and a 5-12 record.
The Bulls cannot take this team lightly despite their record. The Blazers possess two of the most explosive guards in basketball.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are averaging 28.3 and 22.2 points per game respectively. There is also newcomer Carmelo Anthony who in three games is averaging 13 points and has cracked the starting lineup.
The Bulls will need to control the glass, which should be doable against a team ranked 30th in opponents rebounds, and shut down the three pointer. Most of all the Bulls will need to build on the miracle win in Charlotte.
One incredible win does not exempt a team from going out with even more energy and confidence the next game. This game could be the statement game we have been waiting for. We crossed the red sea but now we have to hold on to the momentum.