Guard Zach LaVine wakes up for the Bulls — and not just with his scoring
His season-high 39 points were needed in the victory Sunday against the Mavs, but it was his display in the final minutes that really made the difference.
The explosion was bound to happen.
After all, Bulls guard Zach LaVine lies dormant for only so long.
On a night in which the visiting Mavericks were without All-Star guard Luka Doncic, LaVine woke up.
He scored 21 points in the first quarter and 29 in the first half and finished with a season-high 39 as the Bulls won 118-108 for their first home victory of the season.
‘‘I would not consider Zach a young player,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘But he’s had so many coaches, so many different teams, and maybe hasn’t been in a lot of meaningful games late in the season.
‘‘But I think he wants to learn. He’s a bright guy; he’s smart. I think he knows that we’re not just always going to put the ball in his hands and ask him to bring us home.’’
That’s why LaVine’s final few minutes were just as impressive as his scoring.
Not that the victory against the Mavs came easy. The Bulls (3-4) had a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, only to watch it slowly disappear as the minutes ticked down. By the time the Mavs’ Maxi Kleber made two free throws with 3:27 left, it was down to two.
Two major factors played into that: LaVine went quiet through most of the fourth quarter, and Mavs guard Jalen Brunson stayed red-hot, finishing with 31 points.
But then LaVine came up big. He made two free throws with 3:18 left, then grabbed a big rebound and delivered a surgical assist to a cutting Otto Porter Jr. Heck, he even mixed in a steal on Brunson with 2:18 left.
By the time the final horn sounded, not only did LaVine just miss the 40-point mark, but he had six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
‘‘He wants to win; he wants a direction of the things he’s got to do,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Like I’ve always said to him: ‘It just can’t be you shooting the ball. Like, you have to make plays, make basketball plays. You can’t predetermine and make up your mind of what you want to do. What is the defense saying to you to do?’ ’’
Veteran forward Thad Young continued to see his minutes increase, playing a season-high 28 against the Mavs.
Young started the season on the shelf, dealing with an infection in his left leg, and Donovan has been cautious with his minutes since he returned.
‘‘Thad has done a really good job,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But I still think he’ll get better. He really adapts pretty quickly as it relates to conditioning and shape.’’
Reserve guard Devon Dotson grew up in Chicago until sixth grade, so it’s obvious Derrick Rose was his favorite player.
‘‘Growing up, I went to some of his high school games [at Simeon],’’ Dotson said. ‘‘My dad took me to a couple, seeing him play in the city championship game his senior year, then following him at Memphis, then him getting drafted here.
‘‘Just being in Chicago, Derrick was a huge thing. He did a lot for the city of Chicago.’’