Zach LaVine, the Scoring Machine. For the 4th time in 4 games this season, the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade scored at least 30 points. For the 1st time in 4 tries this season, the Bulls won a game, 112-110 over Charlotte at the United Center. Back to the Butler trade for a moment. Pretty amazing that you couldn’t get any of the 3 players acquired (LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn) straight up in a 1-for-1 deal for the 4-time All-Star just over a year later.
Speaking of Dunn, he missed the first of what will be many games while he deals with a sprained MCL. Enter Cameron Payne. The backup point guard and spark of many Twitter burns caught fire from deep, knocking down 7 of 11 attempts from three-point land in his greatest professional career performance. With 3:15 left in the 4th quarter, after Payne’s final trey, analyst Stacey King turned to his broadcasting partner and said, “Wow…if you’d have told me Cameron Payne would’ve made seven threes in a game, I might’ve slapped you, Neil (Funk).” Cam’s barrage had him amped. Hopefully, it’s a shot of confidence for the still young former lottery pick. He played off the ball for the most part, with LaVine handling distribution to the tune of 5 assists. LaVine took over at the end, nailing a jumper to tie up the ballgame at 108 with a minute and a half left. Then tying it again at 110 on a 17-footer with 53 seconds remaining. LaVine missed a long two and the Hornets called timeout with 7 seconds left. Fred Hoiberg substituted Ryan Arcidiacono for Jabari Parker, but it was LaVine who made the defensive play of the game, getting on Walker’s hip and challenging him to make a tough catch on Nic Batum’s out-of-bounds pass. The ball went off Kemba, Bulls ball. Zach’s ball. Everyone in the stadium knew who was taking the last shot. Almost like the old days at UC. Parker got the ball in to Zach back close to halfcourt on the right side. With 5 seconds remaining, LaVine said the heck with a pull up J, I’m driving the lane. He got to the rim easily, where Malik Monk raked him across the arms for a shooting foul with half a second left. The scoring machine sank two free throws (although he tried to miss the second to let time expire; that’s how hot he is; dude can’t miss if he tries.) The Hornets couldn’t do anything with the little time that was left and the Bulls tasted victory for the 1st time this season.
Robin Lopez DNP – COACH’S DECISION
Cristiano Felicio got Rolo’s minutes and made a few plays. He might’ve also been more mobile on defense than big, lovable 42. Did the NBA change so much in one calendar year that it left Rolo in the dust? Flash back this time last year and Lopez was the most consistent and dependable Bull on both ends of the court, knocking down that 20-foot jumper with ease. There should be room in the NBA for a Robin Lopezes and Joakim Noahs, IMHO.
Chandler Hutchison is getting more minutes than Antonio Blakeney. 2nd straight game that’s happened in a move towards defense. Hutch threw down a powerful dunk off a sweet pass from Arch. LaVine (no surprise) and Bobby Portis (before he left with a hopefully-not-too-serious leg injury-gulp) also rocked the rim at different points in the game. Rookie Hutch is looking more and more comfortable. I like the way he plays.
Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, was in the building to catch the game. He waved happily at the camera as he snuggled with his lady.