When you shoot over 60 percent from the field, it’s rare you lose a basketball game.
The Bulls were not so fortunate in Sunday afternoon’s 125-122 loss to the Pacers.
This was a critical game for the standings. With the play in race on the line, the Bulls had an opportunity to put themselves back in the driver’s seat in a tie break scenario with the Pacers. Instead, having lost the season series 3-1, they Bulls have three games to make up in the loss column AND they’ll also need to overtake two teams to get to 10th.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game …
1. Zach LaVine is playing his best basketball
Over the last few months, the Bulls have been an elite defense that struggles to score.
That form didn’t hold this weekend as the Bulls allowed 125 points to the Pacers and the Suns in consecutive games.
At the same time, they scored 122, 104 and 115 points in each of their last three games, in large part due to Zach LaVine playing some of his best basketball.
Finishing with more than 40 for the second time in three games, LaVine (42 points, 13-of-23 shooting, 5-of-8 threes, 11-of-13 free throws), has been the most aggressive and dominant version of himself.
Since February 4 and prior to his 42-point night, LaVine is averaging 28 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists on 52.8 percent shooting, 38.1 percent on threes and 86.9 percent from the line. He’s taking 7.6 free throws per game, up from his 5.6 average, which already ties the second-best mark of his career.
LaVine has overtaken DeMar DeRozan in usage over that period, and as the driving force for the offense, he has made the team more dynamic. Given his pull up shooting threat to go along with his affinity for drawing contact on drives, it’s much more difficult to guard him. Like the Greek mythological figure Hyrda, if you cut off one head, two more grow back. If you press up on LaVine, he’ll get two free throws at the rim. If you try to play the drive, he’ll smack a three in your eye.
In the midst of the losing streak, trade deadline and Patrick Beverley’s arrival, LaVine is playing some of his best basketball ever and it’s going totally unnoticed because of where the Bulls sit in the standings.
2. Decisive Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams moved back to the bench Sunday afternoon and delivered one of his most decisive performances in the last few games.
With 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, Williams shot the ball with confidence when it came to him, but also flashed his pull-up jumper and had a nice dunk on a drop off pass from the dunker spot.
But what was most refreshing was this sequence in the late third quarter and early fourth quarter where he drove the ball and got downhill after a reversal pass.
Getting into more shots at the rim is going to be key for Williams to boost his scoring numbers. Not only will it lead to more layups and dunks, but free throw opportunities, which he has mentioned is atop his list of areas for improvement.
What strikes me in this sequence is that he was trying to do a little bit too much in the first play in an attempt to shake a defender rather than just blow by him. He learned his lesson quickly and tried to put one down on one of the best shot blockers in the league his next try.
3. Never a dull day in the NBA
The best soap opera on TV is the gift that doesn’t stop giving. After hitting what became the game-winning shot against the Bulls on Sunday, Haliburton took to Twitter to put his signature off a long-running match of bravado between Patrick Beverley and himself.
Apparently, dating back to his Lakers days, there was some sort of competitive banter going on between the two. Beverley talking his talk. Haliburton explaining it on his podcast. Beverley responding to said podcast by giving Haliburton trouble in their most recent matchup.
And then this happened.
4. Final play breakdown
Donovan gave his explainer of what he had drawn up and what the Bulls were looking for out of their final inbounds play.
Up next: Bulls have a few days off before heading to Denver on Wednesday night.