Coming off the heels of a 122-114 win against the Sacramento Kings, the Chicago Bulls finished with an impressive 3-1 record this past week. The three wins came against the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, and as already mentioned, they defeated the Kings on Saturday night. The one loss came at the hands of the conference leading Philadelphia 76ers.
Wendell Carter Jr. Factor
Several factors lead to such a hot week. The return of the Chicago Bulls starting center, Wendell Carter Jr., certainly made a strong impact. The third-year big man was sidelined three weeks with a quad injury. In Monday’s 120-112 OT victory against the Indiana Pacers, Carter Jr.’s minutes were limited, playing only 21 minutes. Nonetheless, Carter Jr. made his presence felt in that time. He scored an efficient 11 points (4-7), grabbing 9 boards, and adding a steal and an assist.
However, his greatest impact did not show on the stat sheet, as it was really his defense on Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis that stood out to me. Sabonis had an inefficient night scoring, as shot just 7-19 from the field. Carter Jr. used his physicality to force Sabonis to miss many shots under shot the rim. Overall, Carter Jr. finished the week averaging 12.8 PPG, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists a game. An average week to his standards, but it was just great to see him back out there.
Zach LaVine Factor
The biggest reason why the Chicago Bulls were able to finish 3-1 this week? You guessed it, his name is Zach LaVine. LaVine had a stellar week to say the least, adding to what was already a strong All-Star campaign. LaVine had at least 30 points in each of the four games, averaging 33.8 PPG on an efficient 53.7% shooting. He added 5.8 rebounds per game, and 4 assists each game. In Monday night’s win in Indiana LaVine put up 30 points, and had arguably one of, if not, the biggest shot of the game forcing overtime. On Wednesday night,
LaVine dropped 37 points with a 63.6% FG percentage, leading the Bulls to a 105-102 win over the Detroit Pistons. In the game LaVine scored 15 points in the third quarter, galvanizing the Bulls from a 25-point deficit, the largest comeback in the NBA this season. Finally, on Saturday night, LaVine scored 38 points on a very impressive 15-20 shooting split, on the way to leading the Bulls to a win over Sacramento. This was the most points LaVine has scored, taking 20 or fewer field goals, in his career. This came with great timing, as it was his last game before coaches are set to vote for the All-Star reserves on Monday night.
Zach LaVine has made incredible strides offensively this season, proving that he can do all that is asked of him. When the team needs him to score, he does just that on an efficient level. When they need him to get other players involved, LaVine has surely done so, playmaking at a level he has never done before. It is also important to mention, LaVine has become a much better defender this season. He averaged 2 steals a game this past week and has addressed the fact that he wanted to make sure he was a better 2-way player this season. As the All-Star reserves are set to be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, one thing Zach LaVine has made clear, is that he is deserving of an All-Star nod this season.