Coby White and Zach LaVine combine for 65 points as Bulls take down Wizards

“This year for me wasn’t about starting. It was about me getting better during the season." -Coby White
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Rookie Coby White had his second-straight 33 point game, Zach LaVine scored 32, and Thaddeus Young added 23 as the Bulls snapped their season-high eight-game losing streak by defeating the Wizards 126-117 on Sunday night.

One of the most lasting stories in theatrical fiction is that of the overnight star, the tale of love, discovery and grand success. For the Bulls Coby White, make that over two nights.

Could a star have been born?

"Like I always say," the unruffled rookie was saying Sunday night after the Bulls 126-117 victory over the Washington Wizards that ended an eight-game losing streak, "I keep trying to get better each and every game. I feel like I'm taking the steps in the right direction and I've just got to keep it going and stay consistent."

Talk about consistency.

White Sunday set all sorts of esoteric and otherwise marks with a second consecutive game scoring 33 points, the first rookie reserve in league history with back to back games of at least 30 points, the first Bulls rookie since Michael Jordan with back to back games of at least 30 points, matching Trae Young and Allen Iverson as the first rookie with back to back games of at least 33 points since 1992 and joining Zion Williamson as the only rookie this season with back to back 30-point games.

Chuck Swirsky recaps Chicago's win against the Washington Wizards.

Most crucial for the Bulls with the season slipping away was to get a victory. They're now 20-38 and hanging onto hope for a playoff spot, five games behind eighth place Orlando. The Bulls had perhaps their best all around offensive game of the season, though most teams do against the Wizards, as Zach LaVine had 32 points, Thaddeus Young had a season high 23 and Tomas Satoransky had 15 points, 13 assists and four steals without a turnover. The Bulls, however, were again late afternoon bakery style with the ball, malodorous with 29 stinky turnovers, nine from LaVine.

Though it also was LaVine with the clutch baskets in the fourth quarter when the Wizards had almost made a 25-point deficit disappear. When the Wizards, led by Bradley Beal's career high 53 points, got within seven points with about seven minutes left, it was LaVine with a three-point play.

"Zach obviously broke the (Bulls career three-point makes) record, but had a big night and made some big plays when it got to nine, eight, 10, 11," said Boylen. "He had the And-1, which was a huge play at that moment."

LaVine also had back to back baskets when the Wizards got back within eight with five minutes left, and then a pull up three with 2:45 left that finally put the Bulls out of Beal's range.

The victory was a relief, though perhaps academic the way this season has gone and with seven regulars still out injured. The development of White as a potentially elite scorer may be the shaft of light in this dark well of disappointment from which the Bulls are trying to extricate themselves.

Zach LaVine rises up for a tomahawk jam in the fourth quarter.

Zach LaVine rises up for a tomahawk jam in the fourth quarter.

The confident, if also phlegmatic, rookie who broke Jordan's prep scoring record in North Carolina has bounced around this season amidst the injuries and uncertainties. He played point guard and shooting guard, played a lot and played a little, shot often and then not so much, was told to step back and shoot or jump forward and drive. His 20th birthday wasn't until last week. It can get very confusing. But he never questioned or complained, and more importantly with this Bulls team, he's never missed a game.

Perhaps other than the Rising Stars exhibition during All-Star weekend, which was perhaps the Bulls' biggest snub despite LaVine missing Sunday's game. White has come out of the All-Star break like he wanted to make a point—or a lot of them—to those philistine voters, alleged to be assistant coaches.

"His scoring is special. He can do it in a variety of ways. Kid's good. He's real good."

Zach LaVine on Coby White

White is averaging 26 points since the All-Star break, surpassed among the U.S. Rising Stars players by only Williamson and Young. Some, like Devonte Graham, have played multiple games and not even totaled double figures in scoring. To paraphrase Fielding Mellish, that represents a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. White also is averaging 17.7 points per game in February, which is no joke, and now top five among all rookies in total points scored and assists and leading in threes made and games played. White's 16 first quarter points when the Bulls took a 35-31 lead was second highest among rookies this season, and his 26 points in the first half as the Bulls led 73-58 was the most points in a half of any rookie this season.

Not Rising! Ha!

Of course, White demurred when it was suggested he was participating in the grand NBA tradition of, I'll Show You.

"Obviously you want play in the Rising Stars game," said White. "You want to use that as fuel, but it wasn't like I'm mad about it or I'm going to go out there and kill. It was more like got to keep being me. I always play with a chip on my shoulder and always go out there and play hard, so that's what I have to keep doing."

Coby White joined Brandon Jennings and Landry Shamet as the only rookies in NBA history to hit seven three-pointers in multiple games.

Coby White became the first Bulls rookie with back-to-back 30-point games since Michael Jordan.

There's also been a growing chorus that White should join the starters given his scoring production, and especially the way the Bulls so often fall behind to start games. Again, they trailed 12-5, and it actually was Young who got the Bulls going early with his three point shooting, joining both LaVine and White making at least five threes.

Boylen has maintained White doesn't need to be rushed, and Boylen may be correct about that since White lately plays more than 30 minutes off the bench, has been evolving and is just 20 years old.

"We have a second group that is playing good again and we are also melding Coby in that first group," Boylen said. "Coming off a two 33-point games, I don't know if it makes sense to (start him). We'll examine it and look at it. We'll try to keep this going."

Boylen also pointed out White's playing improvements, which have helped his play become more consistent.

"He's been aggressive in transition; I think his finishing has been terrific," Boylen said. "I think he's had the ball up and out. He's got it out of his stomach, something he's working on. I thought he's changed speeds in the full court. You don't always have to be at full speed. You can let guys run by you, let guys catch up to you, and I thought he's done that. He's found his seams, almost like a halfback in football. He has to wait for that tackle to create that hole and then he takes his bursts. I think he's done a real good job at those things. He's very coachable and worked, so good things happen."

Boylen is correct in the way White has made some of those subtle adjustments, getting fewer shots blocked at the basket and analyzing the defense better.

"I feel like I'm in a good position," White said. "This year for me wasn't about starting. It was about me getting better during the season. That's the main thing in this league, just getting better. He (Boylen) pushes me to be a good player and that's the type of coach I want."

There'll long be a debate about whether he's a point guard or shooting guard, though the terms have become blurred in the NBA these days. No one who played in the NBA during its first 50 years would have considered Russell Westbrook a point guard. For now, it seems apparent White's greatest strength is his ability to score. Which is important in the NBA since they still add up the points for victory.

Earlier in the season, White was getting his shot off with a 45-degree angle step back off the dribble. Teams adjusted and he slumped some. He's been quicker with his shot, and especially identifying scoring opportunities. Like LaVine, he is probably the only Bulls player who can manufacture a shot late in the clock, as he did several times. With LaVine getting trapped on just about every possession, White took advantage of his openings. He made five threes Sunday and was 11 of 18 overall. Though my favorite was a simple drive late in the third quarter.

Chuck Swirsky interviews Coby White after the Bulls' Sunday night win against Washington.

The Wizards are the worst defensive team in the NBA; though some days the Cavs make it a good contest. The Wizards switch pick and roll on defense, which is an NBA staple to get a mismatch. I'm usually amazed even with clever players like Chris Paul that they'll get a big man switched onto them and instead of driving past the slower man, will dribble between their legs numerous times and shoot a step back. If they make it, the announcers invariably commend them for taking advantage of the mismatch. What?

White drew that switch late in the third on lumbering Thomas Bryant with the Bulls leading 97-85. White stepped back and whizzed by for the layup score, the obvious and intelligent play. He added a pair of free throws to close the quarter for a 101-85 Bulls lead.

You know these Bulls aren't going to make things easy. And Beal just kept bashing his way inside against various guard-heavy incarnations that occasionally had Daniel Gafford or Cristiano Felicio roaming around. Beal would score 21 points in the fourth quarter, nine at the free throw line. And with LaVine and White sharing three turnovers, the Wizards got within 107-100 before LaVine isolated Beal and beat him for a three-point play. Their matchup was great stuff.

Beal came back with a matching three-point play. But then Young got a rolling dunk off a slick pass from Satoransky. It's unfortunate Satoransky isn't more of a journeyman. If he had played for more teams, he might be the answer for the Bulls. He's averaged about 18 points against the Wizards, his season high again teams the Bulls have played more than once and is top five in opponents against the Wizards in assists and threes. His offensive rating against the Wizards is his best. Unfortunately, the Bulls are finished with the 20-35 Wizards at 3-1. So at least they win that potential tiebreaker.

Tomas Satoransky had 15 points and 13 assists against his former team.

Tomas Satoransky had 15 points and 13 assists against his former team.

The Bulls host Oklahoma City Tuesday and then play five of their next eight on the road, though only one against a team with a winning record. So hope survives. While Coby White grows.

"You see how explosive he is," said LaVine. "Trying to figure out some nicknames for him. Like propane or gasoline or something like that. His scoring is special. He can do it in a variety of ways. Kid's good. He's real good."

He's White Hot lately; torrid. He can make you go gaga.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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