CHICAGO (670 The Score) – The Bulls finally flipped the end of the script Saturday night at the United Center.
After digging themselves another huge hole early and rallying in the fourth quarter, the Bulls finished the job this time by earning a 102-97 win against the Heat with the help of DeMar DeRozan’s go-ahead fadeaway jumper from the left wing with 21.9 seconds left. The Bulls (5-9) snapped a three-game losing streak after a pair of late rallies fell short against the Magic on Wednesday and again Friday. Here are the observations of Saturday evening.
--- This Bulls victory was borderline miraculous considering how they started. In a season full of bad starts to games for the Bulls, this was the worst of them. Seven minutes into the game, the Bulls trailed 22-1. They started 0-of-11 and didn’t record their first field goal until Zach LaVine hit a running bank shot on a drive to the hoop at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter.
DeRozan acknowledged there’s a mental element to the Bulls’ struggles early on.
“The feeling we all have when you look up and you see that, it’s definitely frustrating,” DeRozan said. “It’s embarrassing. It’s on us. We just got to stop it, man. We just even got to take out of our mind that we’ve put ourselves in that situation so many times and jinx ourselves to be down in the first quarter. Just go out and play.”
--- The Bulls still trailed 85-75 with 8:04 remaining in the game before a pair of Coby White 3-pointers and one from LaVine led the way in a 9-2 surge that inched them closer.
While DeRozan was the star of the fourth quarter with 12 of his team-high 23 points in the period, his teammates all played their roles well in crunch time. LaVine hit a key 3-pointer with 4:32 left and played solid defense while often matched up against Heat star Jimmy Butler late.
LaVine also had the assist on Alex Caruso’s 3-pointer that put the Bulls up 97-94 with 51.8 seconds left.
“It was a grind-it-out game, especially the way it started,” LaVine said. “It was just good to get a win. I think it felt good for everybody. Everybody was in here, we were very happy afterward obviously. We’ve been playing hard and playing from behind the last three or four games. So to be able to finally come up with one, it was good.”
--- LaVine didn’t have a big offensive game, but he let the game come to him and competed hard on the defensive end while finishing with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Competing hard shouldn’t be viewed as an accomplishment and usually wouldn’t even mention a note, but in the aftermath of LaVine expressing an openness to being traded, everything he does is under a microscope. The context of his quiet offensive game Saturday was that Butler, an elite defender, guarded LaVine much of the time in the first quarter, and Miami has one of the NBA’s better defenses.
Donovan praised LaVine for his play.
“He didn’t get a lot of shots early and the ball was in his hands,” Donovan said. “But I really thought he made a lot of plays that moved the ball to the next action that created some advantages for us. And I thought he got off it very quickly early in the game.”
--- The Bulls attempted a season-high 45 3-pointers. They made 16 of them. The Heat were 12-of-36 from 3-point range.
--- DeRozan’s game-winning shot with 21.9 seconds left was a tough one, but that’s what the Bulls have come to expect out of him over the past three seasons.
“I was just taking my time and trying to get my footwork so I could explode and get the shot over him,” DeRozan said. “I knew it was going to be a tough contest. Just me trying to get my balance once I turned.”
--- White came up big in the fourth quarter on a night he had 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but his shooting woes have been a key factor in the Bulls’ offense struggling this season. White is now shooting 37.9% overall and 29.6% from 3-point range for the season.
His performance has been disappointing, as he showcased real development in 2022-’23 and was being counted on to be a reliable contributor after signing a three-year deal worth up to $40 million in the offseason. White ticking back up to his 37% or 38% shooting from 3-point range of the past two seasons would be a huge development for Chicago.
--- As seems to be the case these days with LaVine, there was an element of drama Saturday. After the Bulls’ win, he declined the walk-off television interview after being approached by a team official requesting that he do it.
“Just a miscommunication for us and our PR team,” LaVine said. “We’re all fine.”
It was then pointed out to LaVine that he looked “ticked” as he left the floor, a departure from his usual more accommodating manner. He left the floor sooner than most of his teammates did.
“I’m not ticked at all,” LaVine said. “I’m happy we got a win. We play these guys in a couple days. You don’t want to just sit around and celebrate. I’d rather celebrate in the locker room.”
The Bulls front office and coaching staff were made aware of LaVine’s choice to decline the postgame interview, and they were displeased, Joe Cowley of the Sun-Times reported late Saturday.
Cody Westerlund is an editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.