Kris Dunn has emerged as the Bulls’ closer, but will Zach LaVine change that?
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How it came about really doesn’t matter to point guard Kris Dunn.
Maybe he earned the Bulls’ closer role. Maybe he simply got it by default. Or maybe he just hijacked it.
Either way, it has been working; the Bulls are 10-4 in their last 14 games. But there was one exception: the overtime loss Monday to the Trail Blazers.
Trailing by two late, Dunn had the ball in his hands with some decisions to make. The core of the set was a simple pick-and-roll with big man Robin Lopez. When Dunn came off the pick, his first read was the pocket pass to Lopez. No-go. It was well-defended.
He then had the option of a kick-out to rookie Lauri Markkanen, who was waiting for a possible three-pointer. But the Trail Blazers defended the pick-and-roll so well in the paint that there was no need for backside help. The close-out clogged up the kick-out pass, Dunn said.
So he went with Option No. 3: his own number.
He attempted a short jumper with CJ McCollum in his face and didn’t have his legs under him correctly to rise over McCollum. Bad miss, bad loss.
After the game, Dunn accepted full responsibility.
“The last couple of weeks, I think [they] believe in me to make those decisions,’’ Dunn said. “[On Monday], it bit me in the butt.’’
Dunn was hoping to bite back.
That meant hours of film study Tuesday to get ready for the red-hot Raptors on Wednesday. It also meant wanting to be put in those late-game situations again as soon as possible.
“Yeah, for sure,’’ Dunn said. “Down the stretch, I definitely want to have the ball in my hands. My team, my coaching staff, they give me the confidence to do it, so I’m going to try to make the right play, the right read, keep being aggressive.
‘‘I’m going to look back at the film and see what happened.’’
Dunn already has learned that late-game NBA basketball is an entirely different level because of the heightened intensity.
As a rookie last season, Dunn rarely was on the floor in those situations for the Timberwolves, and on the rare occasions when he was, he wasn’t an option.
That obviously is not the case with his new team. Dunn is the Bulls’ second-leading scorer in the fourth quarter after Nikola Mirotic. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field in the fourth and averaging a team-best 1.6 assists.
“When it comes down to the stretch, everybody picks their game up a little bit more,’’ Dunn said.
“The intensity rises, and things get a little more physical. It all comes down to who makes the right plays, who makes the big-time shots. It’s definitely a learning experience.’’
And Dunn might have to share the experience soon.
Zach LaVine is in the final stages of his rehab from left ACL surgery and could be making his Bulls debut in the next 10 days.
LaVine not only can make clutch outside shots, but he also can handle the ball and break down defenders.
“Yeah, LaVine is another guy who can give you that,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of another late-game option. “[LaVine] obviously gives you another really good shot-maker. He’s probably the best shot-maker on the team.’’
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