DETROIT — Bulls leading scorer Zach LaVine was hobbled by a right patellar strain Saturday that forced him to mostly watch practice from the sideline, but missing the game Sunday against the Pistons had more to do with general “wear and tear.’’
LaVine received some treatment and tried to warm up before the game, but his heavy minutes lately factored into the decision, and he sat out the game.
“Just wear and tear,’’ coach Jim Boylen said. “He did not do much [Saturday]. He had a lot of treatment and just a lot of work from our guys.’’
The Bulls had gotten used to life without LaVine since he was acquired from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler deal.
Recovering from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament last season, he played in only 24 games, and he missed his eighth game of this season in Motown.
Considering LaVine’s workload recently, however, no one was complaining.
Through the first five games this month, LaVine was averaging 39 minutes, including 56 minutes logged in the quadruple-overtime victory in Atlanta on March 1. Before that, he played in all 10 games in February, averaging 35.1 minutes.
Only Ryan Arcidiacono has played in more games than LaVine this season, but LaVine leads the team with 34.5 minutes per game and 2,071 minutes.
“There’s no reason to risk anything with just a little tendinitis in the knee right now, so I’ll wait for the pain to go away, see how I feel [Monday],’’ LaVine said.
“I think it will be just day by day, see how it is and feel it out. I had some pain, and I just didn’t want to risk it. Why try and get hurt?’’
Boylen continued to experiment with his substitution patterns. The main focus still is trying to figure out possible bench roles for the future.
In the loss Friday to the Pistons, Boylen went with five reserves exclusively for several stints, but on Sunday — at least before garbage time in the fourth quarter — he tried to stagger the reserves with starters Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Kris Dunn.
It’s obviously still a work in progress.
“I’m trying to develop a bench,’’ Boylen said. “I’m trying to trust some guys. I’m trying to get some guys to step up and contribute.
‘‘I don’t sub and say, ‘We’re not going to play well now.’ I don’t sub and say, ‘You’re a second-unit guy. I expect us to lose the lead.’ I don’t say that. I say, ‘I’m playing you, and I expect you to play like everybody else and compete like everybody else and own it like everybody else and grow like everybody else.’
‘‘I think there’s a misconception that I’m subbing, thinking we’re not going to do well. I don’t sub that way.’’
TV play-by-play man Neil Funk fell ill before the game Sunday morning, so radio announcer Chuck Swirsky received the last-second call from the bullpen and jumped in.
† The Bulls are 3-13 against the Central Division, with all three victories coming against the Cavaliers. The Bulls are a combined 7-25 against the division the last two seasons.