Zach LaVine and Coby White combined for 76 points and 17 three-pointers made as the Bulls rolled over the New Orleans Pelicans for a 129-116 victory. The Bulls made 25 threes (on 53.2% shooting), a new franchise record. Zach LaVine now has three straight games of 35 points or more as the Bulls (10-14) will next play the Los Angeles Clippers (18-8) on Friday night.
That was special! Even historic.
Not so much the Bulls 129-116 victory over Zion's New Orleans Pelicans even if the Bulls had some special team achievements, like a season most 36 assists with 59 percent shooting overall, 53 percent on a franchise record 25 three-pointers and the second largest quarter point differential of the season in the third when the Bulls had a little Mardi Gras-like party of their own with a 40-14 fat Wednesday celebration.
Zach LaVine with a season high 46 points and Coby White with 30, showing the promise that's always been possible, combined for an all-time NBA record as each made at least eight three pointers, LaVine with nine.
"It was amazing, bro," marveled "Robin" White about his Batman partner. "He's just a shotmaker. It's crazy. You see it so much. Just count the number of times from this year and last year how many times I've seen him come out blazing hot to where it's, ‘Is he really blazing hot or is that just him?' He's having a helluva year."
The Bulls set a new franchise record for most three-pointers in a game with 25.
White hasn't necessarily been, though this was his second game of at least 30 points. There were supposed to be more as unfair as that might be. But with his third single digit scoring game in the last 11 in Monday's loss to Washington and averaging barely 12 points and 36 percent overall shooting in that span, the whispers were getting louder: Not a point guard. Not a starter.
This game should quiet that for awhile as White made eight of 17 threes with seven assists and had 15 third quarter points to silence any celebration the streaking Pelicans might have planned. The Bulls moved to 10-14 and the Pelicans led by Zion Williamson's 29 points and 21 from Lonzo Ball dropped to 11-13 after four straight wins and six of eight.
"When a guy like that sees the first couple go in you're pretty much going to have a good night unless the defense makes changes or you're not getting the same shots," said LaVine. "He hit his first couple and you could tell he had his stroke going. Coby is a very explosive scorer. Sometimes he just has to go out there and play his game to get it back a little."
It hasn't happened often, and certainly not as often lately as the Bulls, LaVine and White expected or at least hoped. But it's the kind of dynamic backcourt that's often been envisioned with LaVine and White.
Perhaps not sui generis because there's Steph and Klay (we hope again) and Dame and C.J. and KD and Anybody. Chicago hasn't seen it quite yet because LaVine and White have been more mutually exclusive than ideally matched. Hey, that's two shooting guards! Who's getting them the ball?
But what it could be.
"We're continuing to grow," said White. "We're continuing to get better and continuing to figure each other out playing together. This is the first time we played together this year (like this). Like I said, we both never get too high, never get too low. We're more focused on the winning part. We've had big scoring nights, we've had low scoring nights. But at the end of the day, we don't really care about it. We just want to get the win. That's the most important thing. That's how we look at it."
Coby White nailed eight three-pointers in the victory on Wednesday night.
This time it was impressive, if not as easy as the statistics suggested.
The Bulls had a first half of a lifetime, the highest scoring quarter of the season with a 44-34 first quarter lead, 84 percent first quarter shooting with 10 of 11 threes after starting with nine straight, 14 first half threes and 20 first half assists on their 24 first half baskets.
And trailing at the half 74-66!
"Our focus at halftime—we all as a team talked about—we have to get stops," said White. "I think in the third quarter they only scored 14 points (five of 20 shooting). We came out and we stood our ground, got them on their heels and we got stops. We continued to make shots throughout the game and we continued to make the right plays for everybody. That was a great team effort."
It wasn't just that new TV series pilot, The Sweet Shots of Zach and Coby.
Denzel Valentine is quietly establishing himself as a reliable scorer, his 16 points and four of eight threes his fifth consecutive game scoring in double figures. He's averaging 14.8 points and 45 percent on threes (28 for 62) in that segment. Start writing him down for Most Improved consideration. Valentine came out of the game quickly, however, though Bulls coach Billy Donovan admitted he made a mistake in the lineup and started Valentine out of recent habit instead of Garrett Temple for defense against Brandon Ingram. Temple had one of his best games in weeks with sturdy defense on Ingram (six of 19) and eight of his 10 points in the first quarter.
The Bulls remained undersized without Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison. And the Pelicans are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. But the Bulls basically matched them on the boards with Thad Young's hustle and team high (tied with LaVine) seven rebounds and Daniel Gafford's wily third quarter after a dreary start. Gafford had six points and three blocks in the decisive quarter as the Bulls had a little Pelican boil of their own. He even made another jump shot!
"Gaff, it took him a little while to adjust," said Donovan. "But I thought he was really important in that third quarter, that first six minutes when we started to play well. He did a lot of good things around the basket, made some very good passes on offense. It was good to see him bounce back."
Good to see the Bulls with some bounce, especially after a trying week when they were trying to get some wins against, let's say, not the league's elite. But the Bulls were a disappointing 2-3 against the Knicks, Magic and Wizards, and LaVine made it clear to start, Enough of that!
His 20-point first quarter with five of five threes, two rebounds and two assists was a masterpiece.
It was an American gothic for the Pelicans, who never could find LaVine and looked after halftime to be posing for Munch's Scream.
Highlights from Zach LaVine's season-high 46 points vs. New Orleans.
"I expect to do that," LaVine said, really, without hubris. "I put in the time and effort. It happens that way. You hit a couple, get hot. You wish it could happen every game. Obviously, it can't. But when you get in a zone, you want to stay in it."
LaVine is an athletic marvel, especially considering he's on this side of serious knee surgery. His gets off his shot as quickly as anyone in the NBA with the length of perhaps all but Curry, Lillard and Trae Young. He's incredibly accurate considering the defenses he faces with the regular need for his scoring, almost 42 percent on threes. His ability to find space for shots almost anywhere is the stuff of great magicians: How'd he get that off?
"There are games where I'm aggressive and I'm like, ‘Get me the ball.' And then there are games where it happens in the flow of the offense," said LaVine. "Today the guys did a really good job of getting me some open ones and then I still hit some of my tough shots as well."
LaVine slams home his easiest bucket of the night against the Pelicans.
All the shots lately have seemed tough for White, whose promise last season leading up to the March virus suspension again seemed to oscillate between beguiling and benign.
White had a six-game run early last month averaging 21 points, 6.8 assists and 6.7 rebounds. OK, here's here! With LaVine in a six-game stretch with five games scoring more than 30 points, the talk was about thunder and lightning. But then one brother became a blues brother. Starting with a scoreless game in 25 minutes against Dallas, White seemed indecisive and uncertain. Pass? Shoot? Stop? Go? The outside noise grew louder.
But Donovan was confident even if his room began to empty. Donovan said he's learned that White seems to have even at a precocious 20 (21 next Tuesday) an uncanny desire and resiliency that transcends his failings.
"I've always said he's a terrific shooter," said Donovan. "You always feel good when he's shooting the ball. When he has his legs under him like that, he's really an elite shooter.
White scored 30 points first the first time since dropping 36 on the Sacramento Kings on January 6.
"One thing I give him credit for is when he's not playing well, there is an internal drive to him that almost has this, ‘I'll show you' mentality," commended Donovan. "He has a great internal belief and confidence in himself. I give him a lot of credit because a lot of times when guys miss shots it can last a whole entire game or it could last several games. He believes the next one's going to go down.
"He's probably dealt with a lot of that throughout the course of his life where there's been a lot of people that maybe have second guessed or doubted him in different points and junctures. He's learned he's got to have a belief in himself," said Donovan. "He's also accountable. Has the point guard position been this smooth natural transition for him? No, probably not. But he's 20 years old. This is an evolution for him. It's going to take a little bit of time and there's going to be some ups and downs and rocky roads. There's been times where he's not played well and I've taken him out and put someone else in, and he's great with that. I do have confidence he's not one of these guys that's going to pout or sulk. You can rest assure he's going to try to go back in there and give you everything he has the next time he goes out there."
The Pelicans began the fourth quarter trailing by 18 and never got within single digits.
Most of White's shots came on the receiving end. LaVine was at point guard often. But with the ball moving as it did, touring around the perimeter, getting into the lane and back out, it didn't matter who started with it. Curry's not exactly a point guard, either. Which also has been Donovan's point. The ball was moving, and when it does it finds energy. And the you have a shot.
Could the Bulls also finally make a move?