The mark of a good team in the NBA is winning the games you should and being competitive at least in those you are not expected to. For the Chicago Bulls (3-2), that meant taking care of business against the Indiana Pacers.
They did that, securing a 124-109 victory over their division rival to move their record over .500 for the first time since the season-opening win over the Miami Heat.
In his second game back after being held out to start the season, two-time All-Star Zach LaVine finished with 28 points on 46.3% shooting going a sterling 6-for-8 from behind the arc and 10-for-12 at the free throw line. He spoke with the NBA TV crew after helping to hold off the Pacers’ second-half surge.
He is not satisfied just beating up on the Pacers.
LaVine: Bulls ‘Need to Beat Top Teams’
“I mean, last year was the first time we were all playing together,” LaVine said when asked where the Bulls aim to improve most. “So just a little bit more continuity. And then us, obviously, playing against the top-end teams…I think we got to do a better job playing them and beating those teams because, in the playoffs, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
LaVine cited the Bulls’ 2-20 record against the top four teams in each conference. They were 1-14 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference alone.
They are already off to a better start nothing wins over the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
It’s a small sample size but the Bulls were winless against Miami last season when the latter finished the campaign as the top seed. The Bulls did get a win over Boston but it came early in the season before they caught fire all the way to the NBA Finals.
Being 2-0 over those teams is great. Dropping a frustrating game against the surprisingly fiery Washington Wizards is not.
So what do the Bulls do differently to avoid a repeat of last season’s struggles?
“We were competitive, we were just losing those games,” LaVine insists.” We have to be able to come through. I think, in the fourth quarter against those teams, you have to have an all-around game. And, through stretches, I think either offensively or defensively, we weren’t connected. So having a full 48 [minute] game – there’s going to be swings, obviously – but going out there and making sure we put the whole game plan together.”
Bulls Gameplan Working for LaVine
Over his three games, LaVine has found notable success away from his usual running mates in the starting lineup. In fact, per Cleaning The Glass, Lavine-plus-bench units are the two most-effective groups the guard has appeared in.
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan spoke about that effectiveness after the group helped secure the win over Indiana.
“I appreciate his willingness to do whatever he can do to help the team,” Donovan told reporters. “I just thought – with the knee, coming out of a few days where he wasn’t playing, missing the first two games – maybe help him get his footing playing six minutes, bring him off. Now whether or not we stay with that…I don’t know. But I think that, for our team, he’s been really really willing and accepting to do whatever he can do to help. And I think he’s done a really good job with that group.”
It sounds like LaVine is all for it as well.
“Just tried it and went on a quick spurt so, I guess, keep it rolling until you can’t show it.”
The Bulls and LaVine will get their next chance to “show it” against the tanking San Antonio Spurs on Friday.