Bulls’ Zach LaVine is channeling his inner point guard and Michael Jordan

SHARE Bulls’ Zach LaVine is channeling his inner point guard and Michael Jordan
SHARE Bulls’ Zach LaVine is channeling his inner point guard and Michael Jordan

It didn’t appear to be a clean 360-degree dunk.

A 350- or 355-degree one, maybe, but there was a debate about whether guard Zach LaVine’s breakaway dunk in the first quarter Saturday against the Cavaliers was a true 360.

‘‘It was nasty, it was nice,’’ LaVine said when asked about the dunk. ‘‘You all like that? I mean, yeah, it was a 360. I think so. . . . My first two years, whenever I got a fast break, I was trying to do something crazy. They get upset now that I just dunk it or get two points, and I’m like, ‘I’m tired now.’ I’m not old, but I’m not focused on the highlight dunks. I break them out every now and then.’’

LaVine’s best move, however, came later in the game, when he channeled Michael Jordan by attacking along the baseline. Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson did his best to impede his path, but LaVine hung in the air, ducked under Thompson and made a jaw-dropping reverse layup on the other side of the rim.

‘‘I thought Tristan was going to block it because he jumps for everything,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘When he went up, I just, you know . . . it’s good to be athletic sometimes.’’

LaVine continues to carry the short-handed Bulls and is making an early case to be a first-time All-Star in February. He is averaging 27.2 points, which ranked him fourth in the league entering play Sunday.

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But that’s not why coach Fred Hoiberg said Saturday was one of LaVine’s ‘‘best games of the season.’’ LaVine continued to play facilitator in key moments, which is a must these days because starting point guard Kris Dunn (left knee) is still at least a month away from returning.

In addition to scoring 24 points, LaVine also had eight rebounds, five assists and two steals and turned the ball over only once for the second consecutive game. Considering he committed eight turnovers in a game last week, it was a truly complete performance.

Then again, considering LaVine had played point guard in the past, it has been more about just getting back to his roots.

‘‘I played point in high school, and I played a little bit in college [at UCLA],’’ LaVine said. ‘‘Then coming into the NBA, I got thrown into the fire. Those [first] two years in the NBA helped me now understand coverages a lot better. I think I’m getting back into it.

‘‘I read the floor well, especially knowing when to be aggressive and not. I think I’m getting back into it on when to play-make, make the right plays, so I think I’m doing all right with it.’’

Plus, it’s always nice to have his kind of vertical leap, just in case playmaking isn’t an option. That’s why LaVine learned early in his career to watch as many video clips of Jordan as he could.

‘‘I know all his moves,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘There’s no one better than him. He used to make people look silly out there, like they weren’t even basketball players. That dude . . . ’’

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