The Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic at the United Center on Monday night. It was a dreadful game with an ending only these two teams could give us.
The Orlando Magic snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, much to the chagrin of proponents of the Chicago Bulls tank.
With 15 seconds remaining, a lazy Jonathan Simmons pass allowed Zach LaVine to creep up and steal the ball from the outstretched arms of Shelvin Mack.
Mack never stood a chance.
LaVine raced away from Mack like a Ferrari outpacing a Honda Civic and his exclamation point with 12 seconds left put the Bulls ahead for good.
LaVine finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists on 7-for-16 shooting. His passing is what really stood out to me. He doesn’t have the reputation of being a distributor and has been up and down thus far with Chicago but tonight, it looked good.
LaVine had a nice look ahead pass in transition to Bobby Portis for a layup and found Denzel Valentine cutting baseline for a layup.
He also found Valentine in transition, who capped it off with some bounce previously unseen.
While LaVine closed the game, Lauri Markkanen was the story for most of Monday’s win.
Markkanen was a rock for Chicago in the first half and abused Mario Hezonja down low all game.
His first bucket was the European, big man version of Allen Iverson demoralizing Ty Lue. All that was missing was a completely disrespectful step-over.
Lauri was just getting started with Hezonja, however.
It started off with him denying Hezonja. Then he beat him down the floor and snuck behind D.J. Augustin to make himself available under the basket for an out of control Justin Holiday.
Lauri showcased his hands and handled a tough pass rolling to the basket, gathered and went over Hezonja for a nifty lefty finish.
To go along with his impressive offensive efforts, Markkanen shut down Augustin when Augustin attempted to take advantage of Markkanen on two separate isolation situations.
Lauri had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting at halftime before cooling off in the second half to finish with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting. “The Markksmen” was as cold as the Chicago night from behind the arc, missing all six of his attempts.
Still, Lauri found time to bully Hezonja in the paint in the second half, opening the third quarter with a layup and dunk in the first two minutes.
However, Hezonja would have his revenge in the fourth quarter. After the Bulls built an 18 point lead with a little over eight minutes left in the game, Hezonja started firing.
He scored 14 points over the course of four minutes of game time and when his scoring outburst was done, Orlando lead Chicago 98-96. He shot a perfect 4-for-4 with two made 3s and four made free-throws.
Simply put, Hezonja provided the means to a Bulls tanking end. The Magic were going to ride his hot hand to a futile win and the Bulls would move up the tank standings.
But Orlando wisely stopped feeding Hezonja the ball until he grew cold. He missed two shots in the last 35 seconds, including an airball from 25 feet to end the game.
So it goes.
- Bobby Portis is going to be gunning the rest of the season. He took 10 shots in 12 first half minutes and ended with 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting. Nothing like also taking Nikola Mirotic’s shots after being a major reason he left
- I’m not sure what Ryan Arcidiacono does on the court. In seven minutes he had one assist and that was it. Nothing else. He never holds the ball for more than two or three dribbles unless he’s setting up the offense
- Something I noticed that I think we should all keep an eye on: I think Arcidiacono and Paul Zipser wear the same shoes. The shoes look hideous.
- LaVine is looking better attacking the rim. He had some solid takes against Bismack Biyombo.