The Chicago Bulls had won eight straight when a player scored 50 or more points, until Zach LaVine’s performance in Friday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
His 50 points made for a new career-high, but weren’t enough to extend the team’s three-game win streak.
Chicago drops to 22-29, still the Eastern Conference’s 10th seed.
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The Best Bulls Performance Since…?
Two big games from Jimmy Butler, and an outlier performance from Jamal Crawford aside, Zach LaVine’s performance on Friday is the best of a Chicago Bulls player since Michael Jordan touched the hardwood.
The 26-year old guard came out blazing hot in the first quarter, scoring the team’s first 10 points without missing a shot. But it was the second quarter where LaVine put his stamp on history.
He scored 25 straight points to close the first half, and walked into halftime with 39 points shooting 13-for-19.
That’s the most points scored in a half by any player this season, and the most for a Bull since Jordan in 1997.
The last two players to score 39 or more points in the first half were Klay Thompson in late-2016, and the late, great Kobe Bryant in March of 2003.
Not a bad group of guys to be mentioned next to in the history books.
Atlanta Made the Right Adjustments
Unfortunately for Zach LaVine, head coach Nate McMillan and the Hawks defense were able to slow him down in the second half, keeping him far away from Jordan’s 69-point Bulls’ record.
He scored just 11 points in the second half on five-of-12 shooting from the field.
LaVine gave credit to Atlanta’s defense when speaking with reporters (via NBC Sports) after the game:
I give credit to them. Guys get going like that, they made a business call: ‘We’re not going to let this guy beat us.’
He also recognized Chicago’s failure in taking advantage of the Hawks’ double team approach:
They would just jump me at half court with Solomon Hill or (Danilo) Gallinari or (Bogdan) Bogdanović. If one of those guys was guarding me, they’d just bring them off, just pretty much get the ball out of my hand at half court. We still have to find a way to pull that game out. That’s the upsetting thing.
It definitely didn’t help that outside of Nikola Vucevic, very few Bulls were able to make shots. Chicago’s two All-Stars combined to score 75 of the team’s 108 points, going 29-of-50 from the field.
Which means the rest of the team scored just 33 points, on 12-of-36 shooting, with Coby White the lone supporting cast member to finish in double digits.
To the surprise of none, LaVine says he’d rather have the win over his name going into the record books:
It sucks, man. I would’ve much rather had a 50-point game in a win than a loss. That’s the salty part about it.
Both Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls will have plenty of more opportunities to make good on performances like these.
And they’ll have to, if their hopes to make the playoffs are to come to fruition.
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