Zach LaVine put up a performance for the ages in the Chicago Bulls’ 118-108 against the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks, the UCLA product scored 39 points, hauled in six rebounds and dished out five assists.
In a night where Paul George scored 39 points in a Los Angeles Clippers win against the Phoenix Suns and Steph Curry dropped 62 points in a Golden State Warriors win against the Porland Trail Blazers, how LaVine successfully secured the Bulls’ win is what made the outing at the United Center in Chicago so spectacular.
LaVine scored 21 points in the first quarter. In the first period, LaVine made nine of his first 10 shots. He also went 1-for-1 from the 3-point line and 4-for-4 inside of it.
LaVine ended the first half with 29 points and with that, the Seattle, Washington-area swingman encroached on Michael Jordan territory.
With his 29 point first half, LaVine was one point shy from matching Jordan’s 30-point against the Porland Trail Blazers in a game in 1997.
You’d think LaVine would embrace the MJ territory, right?
“I don’t know about that one,” LaVine told me Sunday night.
“If you’re mentioned with him, it means you’re doing something right.”
Over the years, LaVine has always expressed to me that MJ was his favorite basketball player and the reason why he picked up a basketball.
No different after Sunday nights game against the Mavs. “I’m a big, big Jordan fan,” LaVine told me.
“One of the main reasons I started watching basketball as a kid, just like so many others. I think I knew the stats and the way he played and how he got it done.”
For those keeping score at home: LaVine was 3-years old by the time time the MJ, Scottie Pippen-led and Phil Jackson coached Bulls earned their second three-peat in the Windy City.
Thank Heavens for YouTube and for ESPN’s airing of The Last Dance during the spring. “I think the thing I didn’t realize is how much stress and how much pressure he had on him and how he handled it,” LaVine told me.
“It was cool to see him with the camera on him and see how he handled it and if he was in the hotel room with the cigar or if he was going golfing to decompress. And then he got his mind ready and he turned into an animal on the court. That was what I took away from it, all these outside distractions and how he handled it and he was still the best player on the planet at the end of the day every night.”
The Chicago Bulls begin a West Coast road trip that begins with a matchup on Tuesday with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Following Tuesday’s game, the Bulls will play the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday and Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
LaVine tells me that he is quite motivated this season.
“My motivation this year is winning,” LaVine shared.
“Trying to help my team win. Whatever it has to be, if it’s rebounding, defense, assists, steals, you know point. Just trying to help my team win. We haven’t made the playoffs. I want to lead with that opportunity as well. Whatever I can do to win and try to help. If I go out there and give it my all and check all my boxes, I can be OK with that at the end of the day.”