Bulls Insider

LaVine's season-best outing continues strong December


In the wake of scoring a season-high 43 points that featured his full offensive arsenal of attacking the rim, seemingly effortless jumpers, eight trips to the free-throw line and even an emphatic alley-oop dunk, Zach LaVine fielded a question on whether he is finally feeling like himself again.

“I’ve been for awhile,” LaVine said with almost bewilderment in his voice. “Go look at my last 10, 15 games. I’ve been saying that. I’ve been feeling good.”

There’s one more game to be played in December after the Chicago Bulls' 132-118 victory over the Detroit Pistons. But the splits tell the story.

LaVine is averaging 25.2 points on 53 percent shooting, including 43.2 percent from 3-point range, over 14 December games.

In 13 November games, LaVine averaged 20.5 points on 39.9 percent shooting, including 31.8 percent from 3-point range.

“That’s the Zach we all know,” DeMar DeRozan said of Friday's 43 points. “He got us going early, set the table for the rest of the game. Stayed aggressive. Hit his shots. Stayed aggressive getting downhill.”

Getting downhill is where LaVine judges himself the most. Long gone are his slam-dunk contest days — or even as much in-game dunking. But when LaVine is attacking the basket, he is not only opening up the floor for himself later on but also his teammates.

LaVine went 7-for-7 in the restricted area against the Pistons and is now shooting an elite 79.5 percent from the restricted area on the month.

“He kind of got guys brought further up on him because he made a couple shots early. You could tell they were trying to pick him up a little higher,” Billy Donovan said. “Once you have a higher pick-up point on him, with his speed and ability to get downhill, he not only finished but found guys and made some great passes to guys for open shots.”

One of LaVine’s six assists went to Alex Caruso for a crucial, fourth-quarter 3-pointer as the Bulls ran away and hid down the stretch. That’s the thing about all of the Bulls’ primary offensive weapons in LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vučević: For as hot as they can get, they’re all also willing passers.

“Everybody is touching it,” LaVine said. “In those situations, you don’t want to get to a spot where you throw it to a guy who hasn’t touched or seen the ball in 10 minutes. We’re trusting each other.”

DeRozan, a professional scorer himself, marveled at LaVine’s athleticism long before he became his teammates. Game recognizes game.

So DeRozan wasn’t surprised at all to see LaVine heat up, finishing 15-for-20 from the floor.

“He has a quick twitch to the movement that he does, whether it’s getting downhill, stopping on a dime, creating separation,” DeRozan said. “The elevation that he gets, it’s beyond amazing.”

LaVine jumped highest on the alley-oop he threw down from Coby White with 0.7 seconds left in the first quarter, capping an 18-point opening frame. LaVine even let out a primal scream to celebrate that athletic play.

“I gave him just a little point,” LaVine said of White. “Think it was at the buzzer so I was little hyped up. Being able to get up and dunk emphatically like that again, I’m starting to feel good.

“But for me, it’s not about dunking. It’s about being aggressive and getting downhill and to the free-throw line.”

LaVine knocked down all eight attempts there. And he finished a game-high plus-19, adding two steals to his stuffed box score line. 

“I give him a lot of credit sticking with the process of continuing to work,” Donovan said. “When you’re as elite as he is offensively and you start the year the way he did offensively trying to find himself, he has put a lot of work in just to stay the course.”

Click here to follow the Bulls Talk Podcast.

Contact Us