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Bulls guard Zach LaVine was good, but Detroit’s Blake Griffin was better

The Zach LaVine takeover can’t be ignored.

In February, the Bulls guard averaged 24.5 points and 5.8 assists.

And he hasn’t slowed down in March.

He entered the game Friday against the Pistons averaging 31.3 points in his last five games.

LaVine is having fun. Can you blame him?

“We’re in a lot better place now because we’ve actually shown that we can do it on a night-in, night-out basis — scoring like this,’’ LaVine said. “It’s something we’ve all liked to see, and it’s been good out there on the court.

“It’s a lot more fun to play when you get more points and more shots up. It’s just a more exciting game.’’

LaVine has been a big factor in that excitement.

Even on a night in which the Bulls (19-48) blew a 21-point lead to Detroit, losing 112-104, LaVine continued to flash his considerable skills.

Coach Jim Boylen acknowledges that Lauri Markkanen isn’t the only player on the roster with untapped potential.

“I think he can grow in all areas,’’ Boylen said of LaVine, who had a team-high 24 points. “I think he knows that. He has way more room to expand his game on both ends of the floor. Our goal and his goal is for him to be an elite two-way player, and that encompasses both ends of the floor, but also his decision-making. His decision-making is improving every game — when to shoot, when to pass, when to drive, getting to the line.

“[Elite players] get to the line; they put pressure on the rim; they put pressure on the defense. They make the defense shift, and then they make good decisions. I think he’s growing as we speak.’’

Just not to the size of Pistons power forward Blake Griffin, obviously, who took over the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points to help key the comeback victory. In the fourth, the Pistons outscored the Bulls 43-24.

“[Griffin] got me a couple of times, and then there were a couple of miscommunication plays that we can work out,’’ Markkanen said. “They brought the physicality, for sure. Got to give credit to them, but I think we can do a better job of finishing at the rim and making plays.’’

That’s where LaVine comes in again.

His decision-making as of late had been stellar, but he had five turnovers against Detroit.


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Boylen’s confidence in LaVine’s ability to be a primary ballhandler, however, was still on display.

Despite all the question marks surrounding starting point guard Kris Dunn, Boylen doesn’t foresee moving LaVine to a full-time point-guard role.

LaVine did play point guard coming out of UCLA and in his first season in Minnesota, but that’s not a path Boylen wants to take him down.

“Not right now,’’ Boylen said. “I want him to run the floor and get some easy baskets. I think we’ve turned him into an NBA two [guard], so I think we’ll keep him at that wing and keep him growing there.

“I don’t call him a point guard. I call him a ballhandling wing, ballhandling two, three, depending on our lineup. He’s a wing that can make decisions, and those guys are hard to guard.’’