Zach LaVine exploded for 39 points and Coby White added 23 as the Bulls defeated the Dallas Mavericks 118-108 at the United Center for Chicago's first home win of the season.
Dame and C.J. get ready. Here come Zach and Coby.
That's what we've been waiting for. Are they?
Perhaps Sunday's Bulls 118-108 win over the Dallas Mavericks was not as aesthetically agreeable as some of last week's exercises in Washington. But LaVine and White combining for 62 points and making seven of 18 threes showed they can match up when needed with the great guard tandems like Portland's Lillard and McCollum, whom the Bulls face Tuesday in Portland, the already vanquished Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Devin Booker and maybe even Steph Curry and Someone.
"Zach was unbelievable in the first half," marveled White of LaVine's 21 first quarter points and 29 in the half, an NBA season high until Curry broke it about 20 minutes later. "He was unbelievable throughout the whole game. Zach was just being Zach. The first half, dude gets hot like that you just got to give him the ball somewhere somehow. Second half they kind of keyed in on him a lot, double teaming him off pick and rolls, loading up to him. He was making the right reads, kicking it out. I was just taking my open shots, trying to play within the offense.
Full highlights from Chicago's 118-110 over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.
"Me and Zach have a really good relationship on and off the court," White added. "I think we built that over the past year I was here and just this summer. Being around him a lot, you see what type of guy he is. He's a great player, but he's an even better person off the court. It's been fun. It's always fun to play alongside of somebody as super talented as he is. We're just trying to feed off each other right now. Zach was a killer tonight. He came out like the Zach LaVine everybody knows."
LaVine finished with a game high 39 points to offset Chicagoan Jalen Brunson, who started for the injured Luka Doncic. Kristap Porzingis also was out for Dallas while Tomas Satoransky joined Chandler Hutchison testing positive for Covid-19. Ryan Arcidiacono and Lauri Markkanen remain out for apparent close contact. Bulls coach Billy Donovan suggested it's unlikely any join the team for the upcoming four-game West Coast trip.
LaVine coming off a season low 16 points in the feeble loss to Milwaukee Friday apparently sensed it was an appropriate time to Stop the Skid. But also to perhaps send out some advance warning that the red jerseys are coming, the red jerseys are coming.
LaVine scored on a drive for the Bulls first points of the game and had 16 points in the first eight minutes, assuring the Bulls a measure of offense to start that would carry throughout the game.
"I thought he was very, very aggressive, which is what we need him to be," said Donovan. "He was playing downhill. He took his shots when they were there. He obviously had an exceptional first quarter and a great first half. I give him a lot of credit because he didn't really do too much the first six or eight minutes of that third quarter. He showed really good patience and he really played on both ends of the floor. He was really, really big time tonight for us. I mean, he had half of our points in the first half."
Zach LaVine's 29 points in the first-half is the most by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan dropped 30 in a first-half in 1997.
And then just as much as the team needed in the second. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is one of the more adept coaches to make adjustments, and so the Mavericks pressured and smothered LaVine more in the second half.
So LaVine as he continues to show maturation with improved defensive play also allowed the Mavericks defenders to commit to him and made plays. A crucial one was in the fourth quarter with about three minutes left when the Mavericks cut a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to four. Trapped on a pick and roll, the Mavericks were also ready to defend the screener going to the basket. Instead in one motion, LaVine spotted Otto Porter Jr. diving from the weak side, which isn't typical in that sequence. LaVine saw Porter and threw to him in stride for the 110-104 lead. LaVine had a steal after that and led Thad Young on a perfect pick and roll play that Young fumbled out of bounds. But White dribbled into a three with about 90 seconds left to effectively clinch the victory.
The Bulls also got 15 points from Porter and 12 from Daniel Gafford and were especially essential in the fourth quarter with four crucial offensive rebounds that led to seven second chance points that thwarted every Mavericks run.
"A big part of it was the rebounding," agreed Carlisle about six Bulls with at least five rebounds. "A big part of it was 50/50 balls. We didn't do a good job in either area. These are balls that are up for grabs. I think we got 25 percent of the 50-50 balls. They just beat us to them."
The Bulls moved to 3-4 after their 0-3 start. The Mavericks are 2-4.
"I feel like I didn't come out aggressive enough in the first half (in Milwaukee)," LaVine said. "In the second half, I was more aggressive. And it was too late. I always try to look at myself first. But it's a team game. You'll never just blame yourself for a loss. Tonight if I just went out there and shot every time, I could've got 50, probably. But I'm trying to win the game. That's the main thing. If the game calls for me to go and get 50, it will happen. But I wasn't really looking at points wise. I was looking at the score of the game, trying to help us win."
So was White, though it seemed clear he was thinking that way once he started looking at the basket.
Coby White collected 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in the win.
"Coaching staff just wanted me to be aggressive," said White, who has been in a bit of a funk, shooting 15 of 43 and averaging about 12 points the last three games. It's laudable that Donovan has been directing White to be a facilitator on offense because that, in theory, is best for the team. But it's also not necessarily the way most "point guards" play these days—Is Lillard the point guard or McCollum?—and not so easy for White.
White had just two points in the first half, shooting one of three while Brunson was going off for 18 first half points. The Mavericks led 60-59 after a 31-31 first quarter. White opened the second half scoring for the Bulls with a three, and he was off, a pair of threes in the third quarter and 15 points in the fourth quarter. Oh, yeah, that Coby.
"Tonight shots were falling for me, so I just tried to impact the game any way that I can," said White. "That's the main thing for me; whatever I can do to help us win, whether that's scoring, playing defense, rebounding the ball, setting up my teammates for open shots. Tonight just so happened I was scoring the ball. But tomorrow night or next game I could be getting my teammate open shots. Whoever they need for me is what I'm going to do."
White surely is sincere and is a devoted teammate. We've seen that back to college when he famously seemed more excited for his teammates' draft success than his own. He starts every game trying to put everyone else in a better position. Though that also seems to inhibit White. He seemed finished with that in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls benefited.
"You gotta do what you gotta do to win," philosophized LaVine. "Coby got it going late. I think he made some really big shots in the third and the fourth quarter. We were doing that a little bit last year, so it was good to see him get on track.''
Highlights from Zach LaVine's season-high 39-point performance over Dallas.
It's becoming something of a balancing act for these Bulls. It sure looks impressive when so many players score in double figures and the Bulls mount up those assists with extra pass upon extra pass. But there's not always enough reliable scorers, especially against pressure defenses. Wendell Carter Jr. was just two of eight Sunday, though Gafford was exceptional again with his pogo stick reactions around the basket.
"I'm just taking this time to be able to help the team out and to be able to just play my game and do the things I'm good at and be able to help the team," said Gafford. "That's my main focus."
Rookie Patrick Williams tends to defer on offense, though he and Garrett Temple took turns slowing down Brunson in the second half of a close game with 33 lead changes and ties.
The Bulls closed the third quarter with a 7-0 run with a pair of Gafford scores for an 86-81 lead. And then the Bulls controlled the fourth quarter with White's offense and this time LaVine's playmaking and some hustle on the offensive boards. Donovan primarily used a smaller lineup to close without a center while featuring veterans Temple, Porter and Young along with the high scoring backcourt mates.
"I'm just trying to make the right read," said LaVine. "If we're in a lull and we weren't scoring and things like that, I would have tried being more aggressive. But I think we handled it the right way.''
Zach and Coby. Coby and Zach. It felt right.