Playing the game the right way, Zach LaVine and the Bulls beat the Rockets
LaVine followed up his 10-assist game Sunday in Dallas with seven more to go with 33 points Monday at the United Center.
They’re not all going to be things of beauty. That’s not what coach Billy Donovan is expecting from the Bulls.
What he does hope, however, is that when the Bulls face a team struggling in the standings, they give them no favors.
In other words, no more blowing 22-point leads in the second half, which is what the Bulls did last week against the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
Mission accomplished Monday. The Bulls outlasted the Rockets 125-120 at the United Center for their second consecutive victory.
But what was more impressive to Donovan was that they weathered a fourth-quarter storm and didn’t wilt.
‘‘It’s a sign of growth for our team,’’’ Donovan said. ‘‘It’s not going to be perfect. You’ve gotta be able to weather some storms. I thought that we had some moments that were really good, and then we didn’t have some good moments. But I thought we course-corrected a lot quicker than maybe we did in Oklahoma City. It was good to see some growth. Those are habits we need to keep building.’’’
Specifically, habits guard Zach LaVine needs to keep building. He followed up his 10-assist game Sunday against the Mavericks in Dallas with seven more to go with 33 points. His last assist against the Rockets proved to be the biggest.
The game got tight late, with the Rockets cutting the Bulls’ lead to three with 1:03 left. Donovan has been preaching smart basketball in those situations and leaned on LaVine to deliver it.
LaVine did just that. He passed up a good shot for a better shot, getting the ball to forward Lauri Markkanen for a 25-foot three-pointer that all but sealed the victory.
‘‘I thought Zach the last couple of games has been really good,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘He’s really kind of trying to play the right way, trying to make the right decisions.’’
The Bulls put seven players in double figures, including all five starters.
Forward Otto Porter Jr. could have played if push came to shove, but Donovan didn’t deem it necessary against the Rockets. Not when Porter was dealing with back spasms last week that forced him to miss a couple of games, and the Bulls were finishing off a back-to-back.
‘‘With the number of games in this short of a period of time, just be cautious with his back,’’ Donovan said of the decision. ‘‘There’s not any flare-up or anything like that. I think some of that maybe occurred on the back-to-back a little bit, maybe some stiffness and tightness when we were in Portland and Sacramento and then going into the Lakers game. He’s fine.’’
Rookie forward Patrick Williams missed his first game of the season. A bruised hip acted up, and his pregame warmup wasn’t convincing enough for the training staff to give him the nod.
Donovan didn’t think it was serious and said he thought Williams would be back at practice this week.