After blowing a large lead on Monday, the Bulls flipped the tables on Wednesday in DC, coming back from an 18 point deficit with 8 minutes left in the game to beat the Wizards. Lauri looked more like himself, scoring 30 for the first time since opening night, Dunn continued hounding the opposing team's best player defensively and LaVine showed strong decision making and demonstrated clutch free-throw scoring down the stretch helping the Bulls grab the win!
How'd ya like Zach now?
No, he's not MJ, Magic Johnson, neither. But he sure seemed magical Wednesday, at least for one night in the Bulls unlikely if inspiring 110-109 overtime victory against the Washington Wizards. In which the Bulls — yes, the Bulls! — overcame an 18-point fourth quarter deficit with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
The oft-maligned, sometimes amazing Bulls shooting guard made just about all the clutch shots and plays, 10 points in the last three minutes and five free throws in the last 5.5 seconds of regulation. And then the pass to Wendell Carter Jr. for the winning basket with 9.1 seconds left in overtime. The Bulls then survived a short Bradley Beal fadeaway miss to this time be the team that left the other guys wondering if anyone got the license plate of that truck.
"That was an ugly game," said LaVine. "We finally came back and won. We had a big time fourth quarter. We hung in there and made big shots. When it's ugly, might as well get ugly with it and get a good win."
There's nothing ugly about the Bulls winning one of these.
Which is what the good teams do. The Bulls haven't been that often at 11-19, and LaVine did shoot 6 of 23. But he made all 11 free throws, had five rebounds, three steals and five assists, the last one drawing two defenders, cutting across the lane and handing off the winner to Carter.
"Once I got the big dude up I saw Wendell under the hoop and he was able to lay it in," said LaVine.
The 6-5 LaVine has been criticized for sometimes not seeing that other guy. And for various flaws, foibles and faults. Though he's generally fabulous more than most, and Wednesday he added to the frenzy in the mad, mad, mad, mad world that has become Bulls basketball this season. It's often seemed like a futile treasure hunt. But this resilient group doesn't seem like it's given in or given up to the frustrations of the journey.
Lauri Markkanen had his best game since the opener with 31 points and nine rebounds and Tomas Satorasky in his return to Washington had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists with a pair of threes in the overtime. Kris Dunn had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists and Shaquille Harrison made a late cameo to force Beal into a difficult shot to end the overtime.
Lauri Markkanen dropped 31 points and shot 12-19 from the floor in win over Washington, 110-109 in overtime
"I thought Zach LaVine's decision making was outstanding, when to shoot, when to pass," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "I thought KD's defense on Beal was as good as it can be. Tomas makes two big threes in overtime. Happy for him. I thought Wendell came to life defensively with his rim protection; so that (starting) group stepped up. Lauri has a game that he needed, made big shots and big plays. I feel like we're getting better and we're growing as a group. Sometimes when you don't win that gets lost. Coming together as a family and a good team. Tonight we hung in there, a night where maybe for three quarters we weren't very good, but we made enough plays to win."
That's generally been the post game comments of the Bulls opponent, including to open this trip in Oklahoma City Monday when the Bulls gave up another big fourth quarter lead to lose down the stretch. This time it seemed like it would merely be the debris from the residue of accumulated despondency.
Through three quarters it was a double digit deficit against a Wizards team starting their Big Three of Isaac Bonga, Davis Bertans and Ian Mahinmi. Though they did have Anzejs Pasecniks as sixth man. Another bad one without much warning turned into a celebration.
"It showed that our identity should be like that for the rest of the year," said Satoransky. "It's satisfying after the game we had in Oklahoma City where we built up a 26-point lead. We just have to work hard, believe in the process and good things will happen, like today."
The Czech showed plenty of bounce, like his teammates.
Sato had a good night (17pts, 7reb, 6ast) on his return to Washington DC.
It was that starting five who returned with about eight minutes left in the game and trailing 93-75. Markkanen continued to drive hard to the basket and made one of his four threes. Enough of the speculation. He's the starter; he's the power forward; he's Finnish, not finished. The Bulls were grabbing the loose balls for second shots, making it difficult for Washington to score, pressuring as they have. Dunn ran Beal everywhere until he couldn't get a shot off and it resulted in a 24-second violation. But the clock remained an opponent. The Bulls still trailed by eight points with fewer than three minutes left.
"Our defense, I think, saved the day," said Satoransky.
And it then became LaVine's time. The Bulls high scorer has had some of the most remarkable moments of the NBA season, like his 13 threes against Charlotte. And various end game disappointments. But a big part of being that guy is wanting to be that guy.
"You know my confidence," LaVine said. "Through the roof."
No leaks this time.
LaVine started the desperate last three minutes with a driving score in the midst of a series of 10 consecutive empty possessions for the Wizards. Talk about Washington ineptitude. Some were close misses, like a Thomas three. But the Bulls were finishing, Dunn with a runner, LaVine with another three and then with 5.5 seconds left LaVine fouled trying for the tying three. What were they thinking!
LaVine barely grazed the netting to tie the game making all three free throws. But then Beal made a pullup with a second left to win the game. Or so it seemed. Surely another Bulls lament of how much growth and how close they are coming and while there were lessons to take they were improving and, c'mon, not again!
No, not again. The Bulls tried an inbounds lob play to LaVine, who was held as the game buzzer went off. Foul call going the Bulls way? See, they even up. It's a scientific fact.
LaVine made both just as easily to send the game to overtime.
"The easiest points I'll get all night," LaVine said about the free throws.
No sweat. Inside or out.
Satoransky, who spent his NBA career with the Wizards, opened the overtime with a three. The Wizards then scored seven straight for a 105-101 lead. Again, it was Satoransky with a three, the big one to keep hope alive. Satoransky said it to this night. Let us not forget. There is hope.
"We made some big shots and executed with good plays down the stretch and in overtime," said Satoransky. "Hopefully this can be a boost victory."
The Bulls ran a nice inbounds play to get Markkanen a tip score for a 106-105 lead with 1:47 left. The Wizards made four free throws around a missed LaVine drive. And then Carter made two free throws on a nifty pass from LaVine with a roll to the rim, the Bulls then getting a break on a lane violation on the free throws. Is he more Magic than MJ? Still, it was 109-108 Wizards with 39.9 seconds left. Washington ball.
Beal came around to get the ball as Dunn had fouled out. Satoransky was on Beal. Carter came to double team off the screen and Beal was forced into an off balance drive that went awry. Ryan Arcidiacono got the rebound. He handed to Satoransky, who pushed the ball down the left side into the front court and then bounced a pass to LaVine on the left wing. LaVine took a dribble right and appeared like he was going to pull up to shoot with 13 seconds left. But he faked and dribbled back left past Thomas and crossed back right into the lane. Pasecniks came up to meet him when LaVine laid the ball off to the diving Carter, who scored with the reverse layup.
LaVine sets up Wendell Carter Jr. for the game winner!
"He (LaVine) didn't have one of those better shooting nights, but he kept playing," said Boylen. "You cannot shoot it well and play winning basketball. He played good winning basketball."
The Wizards came out obviously going to their star, Beal. The Bulls inserted the defensive-minded Harrison. Beal drove right along the right baseline into a double from Carter, who knocked the ball out of bounds. The Wizards put it back in with 4.8 seconds left. Harrison battled over a pair of screens as Beal came across from the left side to get the ball. Beal got the ball near the right baseline and backed in, turned left into the lane and faded back from about eight feet. He doesn't miss that one, right?
Harrison went up to defend with Carter up behind him. Beal got some space, but had to fall back. The ball hit the front rim.
The game was over and Bulls players were the ones dancing.
"Got our energy back," said LaVine. "We pulled it out."