NBA

Bulls cope with LaVine off-night as DeRozan dazzles again

By Sports Desk February 12, 2022

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan threw his support behind Zach LaVine after the shooting guard let the Minnesota Timberwolves off lightly.

Facing his old team, LaVine was not at his sharpest and there were post-game suggestions he might be struggling physically.

LaVine, who joined Minnesota in the 2014 draft before moving to the Bulls three years later, managed just 12 points and six assists in almost 37 minutes on court.

Ultimately, it hardly mattered that he fell well short of his season's average of 24.6 points, as the Bulls pulled off a 134-122 win.

They are now 35-21 for the season and will tackle the Oklahoma City Thunder – Donovan's old team – on Saturday.

Coby White scored 22 points, Javonte Green bagged 23 and Nikola Vucevic's 26 points proved important as the Bulls were led by DeMar DeRozan's 35-point game.

It was a fifth successive 30-point game for DeRozan and Donovan saluted his "unbelievable" performance.

After quarters of 27-27, 33-32 and 32-32, the Bulls stretched clear in the fourth, which they took 42-31 to swat away the Timberwolves (29-27).

Asked afterwards about LaVine's condition, Donovan said: "I just think at this time of the year, I don't think anybody's feeling probably great.

"He's had to deal with his knee, he's had to deal with his back. It's a lot right now, and I'm sure he's not quite where he wants to be physically, but I give him a lot of credit, he's going out there and competing and playing and trying to do what he can do to help the team.

"We're going to have to work through this with him a little bit. He's trying to do everything he can to help us."

Donovan said the Bulls would "take his pulse – [see] how's he feeling, what's he going through, what's he experiencing" before finalising plans for Saturday's game.

"Zach's an elite scorer in this league and has been for quite some time," Donovan said, "but if he has a game like that you've got to try to generate good shots.

"It was great to see Javonte and Coby step up and have the offensive nights they had. DeMar's been doing it pretty consistently all year long.

"Zach tried to play the right way. I think the guys are trying to help each other and complement each other, and they're very, very unselfish based on who's going well and who's playing well."

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