Bulls guard Zach LaVine will have to deal with a familiar blueprint

In previous seasons, defenses had no problem making life difficult for LaVine. Without the outside shooting of Nikola Vucevic for the time being, guess which game plan is back.

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LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t just a butt-whupping; it was a blueprint. And not a new one, either.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine is all too familiar with opposing defenses doing all they can to make his teammates have to carry the offensive load, from using box-and-ones to double-teams to blitzing him on pick-and-rolls. He has had everything thrown at him in previous seasons.

With the Bulls playing without center Nikola Vucevic (COVID protocols) on Friday, the Warriors turned back the clock and used a game plan that has messed with LaVine in the past. It was one he was hoping he wouldn’t have to see with the Bulls’ improved roster.

‘‘We knew it was going to be tough without [Vucevic], one of our best bigs, best playmaker,’’ veteran forward DeMar DeRozan said. ‘‘It’s a great learning experience for us to understand we just got our butt whupped and how are we going to respond after that.’’

That’s what Saturday was about: a practice at USC to regroup and rethink how the offense has to function with Vucevic sidelined for at least the rest of this road trip.

The first quarter against the Warriors couldn’t have gone any better. LaVine not only was seeing normal defensive coverage, but he was red-hot from the field, shooting 4-for-5 for 10 points. The Bulls had momentum and the lead.

But there’s a reason the Warriors are 11-1.

Because LaVine’s and DeRozan’s minutes often are staggered after the start of the first and third quarters, the Warriors opted to go box-and-one on LaVine, forcing him to become a playmaker. They did the same to DeRozan when LaVine was resting, but not to the same extent.

LaVine took only two shots in the second quarter and got caught up trying to force the action as the Warriors’ lead was growing in the third. That’s how a great start to his night turned into 2-for-6 from the field with five turnovers and a minus-18 in the third quarter.

‘‘They trapped Zach a lot, and I thought Zach in a lot of ways made that pocket pass, got off of it, and we just didn’t really make shots or make plays from those spots,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of what went wrong. ‘‘We’ll have to obviously learn to play without [Vucevic]; it’s just the way it is. We’ll have to figure that out.’’

They’ll have to do that quickly, especially with back-to-back games against the Clippers and Lakers on Sunday and Monday.

So what’s the countermove for LaVine? Stay off the baseline, where he found himself trapped too often. Cut and move the ball more. Mostly, however, it’s trusting his teammates.

‘‘I think, as a player, you sit there and say: ‘You know what? I’ve got to try and make things happen; I’ve got to do something,’ ’’ Donovan said. ‘‘I think for Zach and DeMar, they’re going to have to understand there’s got to be even more sacrifice in terms of moving and cutting and trusting the pass and moving the ball, and a lot of times it’s going to end up in someone else’s hands.

‘‘If a team is going to set out to take somebody away like that, we’re going to have to be able to say: ‘You know what? This is what it is. I’m going to have to do this.’ ’’

‘‘We have to understand for the next few games we aren’t going to have [Vucevic], so how are we gonna manage that?’’ DeRozan said. ‘‘How are we going to figure that out and come together as a collective? It’s really our first adversity, and that’s where adversity builds a lot of character.’’

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