All Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson wanted for their homecoming was a W, but Zach Lavine refused to let that happen.
Thanks for the memories, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson! pic.twitter.com/fIH6NudGdD
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 10, 2018
In the Bulls only nationally televised game of the season, a game meant to highlight Butler and Gibson’s return to Chicago with former Bulls head coach Tom Thibedeau leading the charge for the T-Wolves, the man the Bulls traded Butler for ended up with the last laugh.
Butler was great, scoring 38 points on the night, but Lavine put up a season-high 35 points of his own and made more plays than Butler did down the stretch, which ended up being the difference in the game.
After Butler assisted Taj for a layup with 1:20 to go in the 4th, the Timberwolves had a 111-106 lead. Lavine answered with 8 points on the Bulls final three possessions while also stopping Jimmy Butler twice in the game’s final seconds, securing the Bulls a 114-113 victory.
Lavine started his 8-point run by doing what he does best, dunking the basketball.
The Bulls got the ball back after a stop, and Lavine wasted no time tying up the ballgame.
Zach LaVine scored the Bulls' last 11 pts to ice his former team.
35 pts and a game-tying 👌 to bring Pippen to his feet. pic.twitter.com/yRTPhjHHlu
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 10, 2018
Lavine had missed all five of his 3-point attempts prior to that shot, so his quick release and immediate reaction show that the kid has quite the confidence.
LaVine to the crowd: “This is my Sh**, my sh**!"
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) February 10, 2018
Confidence wasn’t the only trait Lavine displayed Friday night, he also showcased some serious poise after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Butler with 17 seconds left, with the Bulls trailing by two. He hit all three free throws, and the Bulls wouldn’t look back.
Despite all of Lavine’s offensive heroics, the most encouraging part of his performance might have been what he did on the game’s final defensive possession: guard Jimmy Butler with a 1-point lead.
Lavine’s biggest question mark has been his ability to defend, with off the ball mishaps seemingly plaguing him too often.
LaVine got totally lost on this play. Was supposed to guard TLC in the corner, then a bad recovery onto Simmons. pic.twitter.com/5bJQOiFQgD
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 25, 2018
However, his aforementioned confidence in his abilities gave Fred Hoiberg enough faith in him to let him guard Butler, and it worked.
Butler tried attacking Lavine off the dribble, but Lavine cut him off and a double by Lauri Markkanen forced Butler to pass it off to Karl Anthony-Towns for a three. After Towns’ miss was rebounded by the T-Wolves, Butler got the ball back on the left wing with about 4 seconds left. Lavine was right in his face as he caught the ball, forcing him to jack up a contested three that ended up just off target.
Tonight was supposed to be all about the former Bulls, not the current ones. Jimmy Butler almost made that a reality, but his replacement in Chicago made it clear that the Bulls aren’t likely to regret trading Jimmy anytime soon.