Bulls’ Zach LaVine Sounds Off on Kings’ De’Aaron Fox After Loss

Chicago Bulls

Getty De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings.

For the 23rd time this season, the Chicago Bulls lost a clutch game, defined as a game within five points. Sacramento Kings star De’Aaron Fox was the culprit this time leaving Zach LaVine with little to say in the way of an explanation of what happened during the play that lifted his team to a 117-114 victory.

“Big time shot by De’Aaron Fox,” LaVine told reporters, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “Contested three, over two guys. You tip your hat to him.”

Fox finished with 32 points, one point shy of DeMar DeRozan’s game-high. The Bulls only hit two fewer threes getting one of theirs on the preceding play courtesy of DeMar DeRozan who hit 4-of-6 triples on the night.

It tied the game up only for Fox to come through for his team.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be too much of a complicated play,” said Ayo Dosunmu who drew the start in place of Alex Caruso (out-illness) and was one of the two defenders on Fox’s shot.

“Pretty much I wanted to use my length, use my wingspan while also…not getting too close to him because I don’t want him to try to get a drive, or a foul, or a hand-check; nothing like that. So I tried to keep a good distance where I could still contest. He pulled up – I contested, [Patrick Williams] contested – I have to watch the video. I think he made a tough shot.”

Dosunmu noted that Fox entered the night hitting 32.9% of his triples so he was “anticipating” Fox trying to get to a mid-range look and that, if given the chance, he might try to close out a little quicker but that he offered a solid contest of the shot.

After hitting the shot, Fox can be seen telling his bench “I’m f****** nice.”

He entered the night second behind Dallas Mavericks star Kyrie Irving in total fourth-quarter points this season but, with Irving sidelined for his third straight game, took over scoring 15 of his 32 points in the final frame. DeRozan is fourth on that list after finishing first in the NBA last season when Fox was 24th.

Bulls Falling Short in the Clutch

DeRozan’s four-point play — his second of the quarter — only gave the Bulls a tie. They still needed a stop on the other end, and that is where LaVine says the issue lies.

“It’s finishing the game,” LaVine said. “I think a lot of times this year, we’ve been there and we’ve made – offensively – some plays to either tie the game or have a lead. But teams are going down scoring on the other end. So, you just got to finish the game.”

The Bulls sport the third-best defensive rating since January 1. Their offense is only 21st in that span but, even more concerning, their defensive rating is 29th in clutch situations while they have gone 5-11 in the same window. On the season, they are 12-23 in the clutch after going 25-16 in 2021-22 as the group ranked 13th defensively in the clutch.

“It’s tough,” LaVine said. “We’ve lost on the buzzer a couple times. We fought our way back but you got to beat a team like that. Played catch-up. Got the game tied. Incredible shot by DeMar.”

LaVine allowed eight made baskets, per NBA.com matchup data. Six of those came from beyond the arc, though none were from Fox.

This game was largely lost in a third quarter that saw the Bulls get outscored 37-22. That 15-point margin outdid them being plus-12 in the three other quarters even with Fox’s late-game heroics undoing DeRozan’s.

Bulls Flumoxed by Kings’ Zone Defense

LaVine cited the Kings’ third-quarter run and how it was sparked by their ability to get out in transition. They were able to do that because they found a way to stifle the Bulls’ attack in the halfcourt.

“They got out in transition and we got a little stagnant on offense,” LaVine said. “They’re playing transition, getting easy shots. They went to that zone, kind of slowed us down.”

In the end, LaVine could only offer that hat tip to his would-be teammate, Fox, adding, “You just don’t want to be in that position”.

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