Sometimes 50 points isn’t enough.
That’s the scoring output Bulls star guard Zach LaVine produced in a 120-108 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. Powered by LaVine, the Bulls controlled the first half to lead 66-53, only to see the Hawks claw their way back to end a three-game winning streak. Atlanta used a 17-2 run across five minutes in the fourth quarter to take control.
It was the first time in his career LaVine scored 50 points and the first time a Bulls player dropped a 50 piece since Jimmy Butler in January 2017 against the Hornets. Per NBC Sports Chicago writer K.C. Johnson, LaVine became the fifth player in Bulls history to score 50-plus points in a game, joining Butler, Michael Jordan, Chet Walker, and Jamal Crawford. LaVine’s 39 points in the first half are now the most by any player in any first half this entire season. He also scored 25 straight points for the Bulls in the second quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bulls still lost and missed an opportunity to win four games in a row for the first time since December 2017.
After the outburst in the first half, the Hawks adjusted by running two and sometimes three guys at LaVine whenever he touched the ball. The strategy worked, as Atlanta held LaVine to just 11 points in the second half. Even when Zach was able to pass out of traps, his teammates weren’t scoring consistently enough to still salvage a victory in Atlanta.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan said gameplan in second half was to get ball out of Zach LaVine’s hands and force other Bulls to make plays. Liked the way they executed traps.— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) April 10, 2021
After historic 39-point first half, LaVine had 11 on 5-12 shooting in the second.
It took until the very end of the third quarter for the Hawks to snatch their first lead of the game. Behind the efforts of Trae Young, Clint Capela, and Danilo Gallinari, Atlanta put the game away in the final frame, with Gallo awakening to score 15 fourth-quarter points after a slow start. As good as LaVine was, Young was just as impressive with 42 points on 15-of-25 from the field, nine assists, and eight rebounds. Even though the Hawks were shorthanded, the Bulls had zero answers for Young and Atlanta’s offensive attack in the second half. Chicago was outscored 67-42 over the final 24 minutes.
In addition to LaVine’s 50 points, Nikola Vucevic had an efficient 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Coby White was the only other Bull in double figures, though, and he only managed 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and was a team-worst minus-15. Lauri Markkanen couldn’t keep his hot streak going either with just five points on 1-of-4 shooting in 27 minutes of action (minus-12), but Billy Donovan interestingly rode with White and Markkanen down the stretch as the Bulls floundered. It didn’t help that Thaddeus Young had a quiet game himself, but it’s interesting that Daniel Theis only got 12 minutes despite the Hawks scoring 66 points on 78.6% shooting in the paint. Furthermore, a bit more Troy Brown Jr. on Trae Young could have been an option, but Brown’s offense isn’t exactly good at this point.
When it comes down to it, the Bulls put themselves in position to win a game and then folded late again in a game against a quality opponent. It’s frustrating and especially disappointing given the three-game winning streak and new roster in place that should be better equipped to avoid these kinds of collapses.
The Bulls are now 22-29 and will square off against the bottom-feeding Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.