To whom much is given, much is required.
The Chicago Bulls‘ Zach LaVine had 42 points including 10 three-pointers in a 130-127 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon, but he was questioned about a shot he took late in the game in an attempt to tie the score at 128.
LaVine had just driven to the basket to convert an And-1 and drained a really tough three-point shot to bring the Bulls within one with 18.4 seconds remaining in the game. The Bulls had to foul. They did and sent Paul George to the line.
George made both free-throw attempts to push the lead back to three. The Bulls had the ball with 15.2 seconds remaining and the Clippers knew they needed a three to tie. The inbounds pass went to LaVine who was being guarded by the Clippers’ pure lockdown point guard Patrick Beverley. LaVine swerved around a pick after passing half-court and elevated three feet behind the three-point line while still being contested by the help defense off the screen.
The shot was a tough and contested one that flew wide left for an airball. When LaVine elevated, he had Coby White open for a three to his left and Garrett Temple open in the corner to his right.
The Bulls subsequently took their third straight loss on this west coast trip, all by narrow margins to the Sacramento Kings, LA Lakers, and now the Clippers. In each game, LaVine made plays to help put the Bulls into position to win, but in all three contests, he made a decision down the stretch that was debatable.
Bulls announcer Stacey King criticized LaVine during the broadcast for taking the shot on Sunday too early and pointed out the open teammates LaVine either didn’t see or bypassed.
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LaVine Talks About the Eventful Finish
When asked about his decision to shoot the ball, and to shoot it with 7.5 seconds still left on the clock, LaVine responded as followed:
He added: “I just didn’t get enough legs to it. If I would have hit the front rim and missed or if I f###### air-balled it, it’s the same difference. I’m trying to help us win, man. That’s what I’m trying to do. Obviously, I don’t try to go out and miss that shot. I made the one before, so obviously I’m going to try to go out and make that one too.”
LaVine seemed a little annoyed by anyone questioning the shot as he had a profane slip during the answer.
LaVine was asked another question about finishing the game, and he seemed to push it directly to his level of comfortability taking last-second shots. LaVine was sure to remind anyone who had forgotten about his resume.
Here is a look at LaVine’s post-game presser:
LaVine on the Defensive
There is no questioning LaVine’s talent. It seems like I express that concept at least once a day.
However, his late-game decision-making has left something to be desired. That said, I didn’t have a huge problem with the shot he took on Sunday. It wasn’t a smothered shot, and as LaVine said (though it’s probably best if you don’t run your own stats and accomplishments in a presser) he had 10 threes and has made some big shots in his career.
Yes, White and Temple were open, but this shot wasn’t as bad as the one he took in Sacramento with the Bulls down a point, early in the shot clock, and completely oblivious to Wendell Carter Jr. cutting in the lane wide-open after a screen and roll. It wasn’t even as ill-advised as LaVine’s decision to go too early against the Lakers in the previous game. In that situation, he didn’t give anything a chance to develop before settling for a fallaway jump shot with plenty of time left on the shot and game clock. If there is any problem with the shot LaVine took on Sunday, it was again LaVine’s rush to get the first semi-good look at the basket up toward the rim.
Perhaps the most troubling thing I saw from LaVine on Sunday was his answers to the questions about the shot. Depending on the way his teammates and coaches take his responses, it could be perceived as selfishness, which plays into a common criticism of LaVine considering he’s often accused of playing hero ball.
In any case, the team continues to compete and get better. Hopefully, LaVine’s consistent maturity will be a season-long storyline.