Bulls guard Zach LaVine knows pressure is on him, scores 44 in win
The Kings did everything they could to make life difficult for LaVine on Friday. His response came in Cleveland 24 hours later: The guard fell two assists shy of a triple-double.
CLEVELAND — Double-teams, triple-teams, the kitchen sink.
Bulls guard Zach LaVine better get used to all of it.
The Kings followed that defensive blueprint Friday at the United Center, and the Cavaliers picked up where Sacramento left off on Saturday.
But LaVine, continuing his late push for an All-Star berth, was basically unstoppable, scoring 44 points. The Bulls (18-30) went on a second-half run to pull away from the Cavs at the Rocket Mortgage Field House in their 118-106 victory.
“I mean, [opponents have] been doing that [against me],’’ LaVine said. “We gotta get somebody to step up, and I think we’ll find it.’’
LaVine’s right. He will need some help, but not against Cleveland.
Lauri Markkanen’s right pelvis injury left the Bulls even more undermanned. With Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle) and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot) out, the Bulls are missing three of their top five scorers.
That offensive dearth was exposed against the Kings. LaVine’s response came a night later.
“I’m someone that I usually look at myself first,’’ LaVine said. “I try to put myself in the best position each summer, going out there and trying to get myself better to help the team.’’
LaVine knows there are teams he can go solo against, but he’s still going to need someone on the roster to step up.
Guard Tomas Satoransky chipped in 19, but he has been too inconsistent.
Coach Jim Boylen’s hope is that the roster is still talented enough so that different players can ride shotgun with LaVine on any given night.
“Will we have to adjust some things and play a little differently? Maybe,’’ Boylen said. “But I’m not gonna reinvent the wheel in January. I’m not gonna do that.’’
His one request against Cleveland was he wanted his team to run. Even more than usual.
Rather than slow it down and allow defenses to set up a half-court defense to try to take LaVine out of the game, he wanted the burst button pressed at all times.
Thanks, Sacramento. The loss 24 hours earlier was a reminder of that.
“[The Kings] had 4½ guys with a foot in the paint the whole game, so that’s what people are going to do to us,’’ Boylen said. “They’re going to shrink the floor, so we’ve got to play faster. We’ve got to move the ball. The ball can’t stick.’’
LaVine made sure it didn’t and then some, sending a message right from the start.
Despite the Bulls trailing by six in the first quarter, LaVine went 5-for-11 from the field for 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. By the half, LaVine had 27 points to help give the Bulls a two-point lead.
The Bulls outscored Cleveland 40-19 in the third quarter.
LaVine scored 40-plus points for the fourth time this season and added 10 rebounds. He fell two assists shy of a triple-double.
“He wants to be great,’’ Boylen said. “He was frustrated after [the loss to the Kings], our team was frustrated, and I think he responded.
‘‘That’s what good players do. They take it to heart; it bothers them. He just was focused.’’