CHICAGO – Breaking through in 2020 is proving to be especially tricky for Jim Boylen’s team, even when their best player is putting up incredible numbers.
That’s been a theme for the Bulls since the calendar flipped, and frankly, most of the season. In the team’s fifth game of the new year on Friday, it played out yet again.
In one of his better performances of the season, Zach LaVine scored 43 points with eight three-pointers and rallied the Bulls at a number of times in the game. Yet it wasn’t enough to carry his team to a victory, as the Pacers would shake off the guard’s exploits.
Indiana led by 16 points in the fourth quarter and despite a late run by the Bulls were able to come home with a 116-105 win on Friday evening. It sends the Bulls to their sixth-straight defeat and a fifth in the new year as their struggles continue despite the heroics of LaVine.
He did what he could at times to spark the Bulls, getting a steal and slam at the end of the second quarter to try to build some energy after a lackluster first half. In the third quarter, he hit four three-pointers in 1:43 seconds to get the Bulls within four, and Coby White (23 points) responded with three in 67 seconds to get the Pacers’ lead down to two.
Indiana surged back to a big lead in the fourth as Miles Turner’s hoop with 6:14 to go added to his 27 points and pushed the advantage to 16 where it stayed for a bit. Yet LaVine wouldn’t quit and would score 15 more points in those final six minutes as the Bulls got the lead all the way down to four points.
For the contest, the guard finished 14-of-23 from the field while hitting eight of his 13 tries from behind the arc along with all seven of his free throws.
It’s been a common story for LaVine this season as he continues to make his push for a spot in the NBA’s All-Star Game in Chicago on February 16th. In the first five games of this calendar year, Zach is averaging 31.2 points per game, which is up from his 25.1 average which he had in December.
His play has earned him some respect from around the league, as he currently ranks fifth in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting behind Trae Young, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose. After his 43-point performance against the Pacers on Friday, former All-Star guard Dwyane Wade had his own praise to give to LaVine on Twitter.
I can’t say it enough Zach LaVine is a problem. I can’t wait to watch him over the next few years blossom.
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) January 11, 2020
But like usual, it hasn’t been enough for the Bulls to get any rhythm this season.
At 13-26, the Bulls sit five games outside of the final spot in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Making the postseason was an organizational goal for the team this season, but right now rooting for a hometown player in the All-Star Game might be more realistic.