Bulls outlast Thunder without ailing Zach LaVine

LaVine’s left knee is again an issue worth watching, but DeMar DeRozan continued putting the team on his back, extending his streak with 35 or more points to five games.

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There’s a fine line between being cautious and being concerned.

The Bulls found themselves on it Saturday.

Before their 106-101 victory Saturday against the Thunder at the United Center, coach Billy Donovan explained the situation with guard Zach LaVine’s left knee and how the team will be taking a different approach with it moving forward.

LaVine missed five games with soreness in the knee last month after spending weeks playing through some swelling and discomfort. The fact that it was the same knee in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2017 was a bit alarming for LaVine, but his mind was eased when an MRI exam showed no structural damage.

The discomfort wasn’t going away, however, so LaVine sat out the game against the Thunder and might start sitting out a game in back-to-backs.

‘‘We had basically talked about trying to limit his back-to-back opportunities to kind of give his knee a chance to rest, but we’ll probably end up going day-to-day with him just to see how he’s feeling,’’ Donovan said of the short-term approach. ‘‘For [Saturday], that was kind of the original plan, just to hold him [out]. I think he feels good about that. That’s an every-morning check-in just to see how he’s doing.’’

LaVine obviously wasn’t doing very well Friday against the Timberwolves. He played 37 minutes but scored only 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting and was visibly favoring the knee in the second half.

So in the same week that the Bulls were talking about getting healthier for the final two-month push, they watched LaVine miss his 10th game of the season with possibly more to come.

With guards Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) and Alex Caruso (wrist surgery) and forward Patrick Williams (wrist surgery) on the mend but sidelined and forward Javonte Green (foot) needing a night off, having to monitor LaVine’s knee was just another gut punch.

‘‘More often than not, he wants to play,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘But if it’s a situation that he’s dealing with something that will cause longer-term issues or problems, I would say that he’s very smart and knows his body well.

‘‘At the heart of him? Yeah, he wants to play. [But] he understands where his knee is at, he understands the plan, he understands what we’ve got to do to manage him and he’s part of that. He obviously signed off on it and agrees with it.’’

The Bulls have two more games before the All-Star break, then LaVine is scheduled to compete in the three-point contest Saturday and the All-Star Game on Sunday. There was no word about him skipping either event.

‘‘That would be something that would be up to Zach and the medical guys, just to see where he is at physically,’’ Donovan said.

First things first, however, and that was dealing with a scrappy Thunder team that built a 14-point lead in the first half before the Bulls eventually ran them down.

The big difference? The Thunder don’t have players such as DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, and they had no answer for either. DeRozan finished with 38 points — his fifth consecutive game with 35 or more — and Vucevic added 31 points and 15 rebounds.

‘‘It’s really amazing just watching him play,’’ Donovan said of DeRozan. ‘‘He’s been doing this the entire year. He has great focus and concentration. He’s as good a scorer as I’ve been around.’’

DeRozan was focused mostly on the victory.

‘‘I just try to go out there every night and try and win,’’ said DeRozan, who didn’t realize the five consecutive 35-point-plus games were a career best. ‘‘I don’t know what roll I’m on. I’m just being myself.’’

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