Bulls guard Zach LaVine knows he needs to rack up more wins to achieve All-Star glory
LaVine again had a chance to play hero in the eventual 102-98 loss to the Jazz on Thursday night, but he came up short ... kind of like his early vote count in the push to make the All-Star Game.
Zach LaVine’s quest for respect is ongoing.
He earned it from the NBA dunk community early in his career after winning back-to-back titles in the showcase event during All-Star Weekend.
The Bulls also showed him respect, acquiring him in the Jimmy Butler trade to jump-start their rebuild in 2017, then matching a four-year, $80 million offer sheet from the Kings a year later.
But winning respect from NBA fans is a tougher endeavor.
A reminder of that slapped LaVine in the face Thursday.
Despite coming off a month in which he averaged 25.1 points and in a season in which he’s shooting a career-best 39.8 percent from three-point range, LaVine was fifth in the first fan-voting update for the All-Star Game, finishing behind Trae Young, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose at guard for the Eastern Conference.
It wasn’t like it was close, either, with LaVine trailing the oft-injured Rose 233,669 to 174,991 even though he has out-performed Rose in almost every major category, including the one that suddenly carries the most significance for LaVine: games played.
LaVine has started all 35 games for the Bulls after the 102-98 loss to the Jazz at the United Center, but he also knows there’s the rub.
He’s not going to launch 35-footers like Young does in Atlanta, so the only way to capture attention is by winning, which is an ongoing problem for these Bulls.
Like a bad late-night TV rerun, the Bulls (13-22) continued the season trend of starting off well, only to fall apart in the third quarter before the eventual demise.
“Whenever my number is called, I step up to bat,’’ LaVine said afterward. “I’m not scared to take or miss shots.’’
It was the latter against Utah (22-12) and followed a familiar script.
Thanks to LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls overcame a slow start to outscore the visitors 29-22 in the second quarter and take a 51-47 lead into halftime.
LaVine had 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, and Kris Dunn was doing a defensive number on Jazz standout Donovan Mitchell, keeping him in check with only 10 points.
The Bulls’ good fortune has a short shelf life, however, and the team went stale in the third quarter.
Markkanen and LaVine actually pushed the lead to 11, but within minutes, the Jazz rallied and eventually took the lead on a three-pointer by Mitchell with 7:04 left in the quarter.
By the time the quarter ended, Utah had a 76-70 lead, outscoring the Bulls 29-19.
The Bulls fought back. They always do. And that meant LaVine had to play hero. He missed a game-tying layup with 21.7 seconds left because of stopper Rudy Gobert. Then with the Bulls down by four, he missed a three-pointer with 12 seconds left.
The game-high 26 points for LaVine were nice, but finishing games is still a skill that needs to be honed.
“I’ve closed out a lot of games this year, and then some games I haven’t,’’ LaVine said. “It’s a miss-or-make league. There are times where if you make the shot, no one says anything, and if you miss it, you look like a bad guy. I’m going out there trying to win games. I think you guys know where my heart is. I’m trying to do everything I can, and I just didn’t make enough plays, and we didn’t as a group, either.’’