Zach LaVine’s big start isn’t enough for the Bulls to finish strong vs Atlanta


ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 9: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks on April 9, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

ATLANTA – In the history of the franchise, the show that he put on over the course of 24 minutes on Friday evening was one of the best ever seen.

Only one other player for the Bulls was more productive than Zach LaVine in the opening half of a game on Friday, and it’s not MJ. Only Jimmy Butler’s 40 first half points were higher than the current guard’s early output at State Farm Arena.

Against the Hawks, LaVine scored 39 points in the first half, the most of any player in the NBA this season. It’s only second in Bulls’ history to Jimmy Butler’s 40 points which he scored in Toronto in the first 24 minutes on January 3, 2016.

LaVine would finish with an even 50 points on the night, joining Butler, Michael Jordan, Chet Walker, and Jamal Crawford as they only ones to reach that mark with Chicago.

But, as it has been a few times in strong efforts by the All-Star, it wasn’t enough to keep the Bulls in the lead all 48 minutes.

With the Hawks limiting LaVine to 11 second half points while their own offense caught fire, the Bulls lost a 13-point haltime lead before the end of third quarter. With Trae Young (team-high 42 points) leading the way, Atlanta pulled away for a 120-108 victory.

This denied the Bulls their first four-game winning streak since December of 2017, halting some momentum the team got after dropping six-straight games around the trade deadline. The result drops the Bulls to 22-29 on the season as they still sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The end result spoils the highest-scoring performance of LaVine’s career, one in which he scored 12 points in the first four minutes of the game. In the second quarter, he’d score 25-consecutive points for the Bulls as he approached the team record for points in the first half.

It wouldn’t hold, however, as the Hawks clamped down on LaVine then went to work to get the lead down. They’d outscore the Bulls 33-88 to grab a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the visitors would restore their own lead to seven.

But then came a 21-4 Hawks’ run midway through the quarter that broke it open for good. LaVine’s first half was one for the history books, but the finish for the guard and his team is one he’d like to forget.

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