Bulls guard Zach LaVine plays hero twice; coach Jim Boylen keeps motivating

Coach Jim Boylen admittedly isn’t a huge TV fan.

At least he’s not during the season, when he’d rather be in his office breaking down game film.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of the number of times the Bulls were scheduled for a national TV appearance this season. And with only 16 games left, he used the number as a motivational tool.

“This is our third game on national TV,’’ Boylen said of the Bulls’ 108-107 victory Wednesday against the 76ers. “I think that’s the minimum that the league gives you with the TV agreement. Don’t quote me. I think it’s three or five. . . . We’re playing the minimum amount of games on national TV. That should bother our guys. There’s a reason for that. So what are we going to do about it? Anything I can use to motivate our crew to understand what this level is really about, I’m going to use.’’

It worked.

Thanks to Zach LaVine’s basket with 1.6 seconds left, the Bulls held on to beat the playoff-bound 76ers . . . twice.

Philadelphia had a chance for the win with 0.5 seconds left after LaVine missed the ensuing free throw, but the clock started too quickly. Both teams already were in the locker room, as fans were emptying out of the United Center, while the play was reviewed.

It was determined that the clock had been mismanaged, so the 76ers were given a second attempt.

Former Bull Jimmy Butler, however, fumbled Ben Simmons’ inbound pass and never got a clean look.


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“Play together,’’ Boylen said. “That’s what teams do this time of year. They ramp it up. I’ve been a part of it. I’ve seen it. It’s not always about shootaround or a walkthrough. It’s about your focus and your ability to understand the moment and raise your teammate up in a moment he needs to be raised up.’’

That’s what LaVine did, making a game-tying basket as he floated across the lane with 46.6 seconds left. Robin Lopez then put the Bulls up by one with his free throw with 17.1 seconds left.

But Philadelphia put the ball in Butler’s hands in crunch time, and he drew a foul with 4.8 seconds left. He made both free throws.

The Bulls took advantage of their chance for the win out of the timeout. Boylen set up a great play in which Lopez got the inbound pass, then handed off to a streaking LaVine but spun the other way as though he still had the ball. Philadelphia bit, and LaVine scored and drew the foul.

LaVine finished with a game-high 39 points.

“Zach had the hot hand, and they had a problem stopping him all night,’’ Lopez said. “That game was big-time.’’

More endorsements

Just in case there were some lingering doubters out there who still believe Boylen is not returning next season, the endorsements continued to pour in with the 76ers in town.

“I’m happy for Jim,’’ Butler said. “I think he’s going to be great for the young group of guys that they have here because I know that he works. I know that he studies the game. And he wants to win. I think this city, of all cities, definitely deserves that.’’

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown agreed.

“I think he’s the right coach to help steer this program through this,’’ Brown said. “He’s tough, he’s competitive. I see these guys . . . I think they play hard. They’ve taken some big scalps from time to time.’’

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