Guard Zach LaVine scores 41 at the mecca as Bulls end four-game losing streak
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NEW YORK — The edict was issued Monday morning before the shootaround.
“Yeah, that was the first thing that was addressed,’’ Bulls rookie Chandler Hutchison said. “The moral-victory stuff is kind of over. It’s getting kind of old. We’ve got to figure it out, no matter how it is. We’ve been given the game plan and what to do to execute it out there, and we have to be able to do it.’’
Done. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it got done.
Thanks to Zach LaVine’s season-high 41 points, the Bulls (3-8) ended a four-game skid, beating the Knicks 116-115 in double overtime at Madison Square Garden.
LaVine has scored at least 20 points in all 11 regular-season games. All 41 were needed because the Bulls couldn’t shake the Knicks most of the night. They needed a hero in the fourth quarter and the two overtime periods.
He scored 23 points after the third quarter and drew a foul with .2 seconds left in the second overtime to get to the free-throw line with the game tied.
LaVine made the first and missed the second, but the Knicks were out of time and luck.
“You just get up for these types of games,’’ LaVine said. “[The Garden is] the mecca. You hear about everybody throughout history, the greats always having great games here, so you get up for it. You can feel the energy in the gym. I was up for this game, and we earned this win.’’
It was a difficult win that should’ve come easier, as the Bulls walked a fine line the whole game.
That’s not surprising, considering the entire organization is walking a fine line.
It isn’t often that an NBA team can develop multiple young players and claim it’s trying to win at the same time.
But coach Fred Hoiberg insisted that it’s the current mission statement even with Lauri Markkanen (right elbow), Denzel Valentine (left ankle), Kris Dunn (left knee) and Bobby Portis (right knee) out.
“I think you can do both,’’ Hoiberg said. “We’ve had leads in five games and not been able to close out, leads in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a matter of closing those. We’re trying to get one to build confidence as we have a young team and are trying to learn how to win.’’
The Bulls obviously went into tank mode last season once they saw the season slipping away, disguising it as “development.’’
According to Hoiberg, however, there have been no conversations like that through the early part of this season, even with all the bodies in the training room.
“No, it hasn’t changed anything,’’ Hoiberg said. “The important thing is competing every time you step on the floor.’’
That’s the message that Hoiberg was making sure his players heard loud and clear.
No one heard it louder than LaVine.
“I was doing what I had to do to get us the lead,’’ LaVine said. “They would come back and tie us, and I was getting tired of all that.’’
LaVine also had four assists, four rebounds and three steals but continued to struggle with ball security, finishing with eight turnovers.
Asked after the game if he was trying to show that he’s one of the best scorers in the game, LaVine said, “I want to be known as one of the best players in the NBA. That’s what I go for.’’