The season may be young, but the Chicago Bulls have certainly put their fans through quite the roller coaster of emotions. It's never a great sign when you're already having a players only meeting after the very first game, the Bulls then followed that up with a wild OT win against the Raptors where they pulled off a massive late game comeback and things got rather insane down the stretch
Maybe the players only meeting worked? I mean the highs and lows of watching this team through their first two games was a great example of both ends of the spectrum with the Bulls. Sometimes, they look like a team ready to be blown up, other times they remind you of the team that was atop the Eastern Conference for a long ass time before injuries started to tank their season.
Game 3 brought the same type of up and down volatility that this Bulls can't seem to get away from. Coming off that exhilarating win against the Raptors, the Bulls had every chance to build some momentum facing a young and rebuilding Pistons team. If I told you think was a night that Zach Lavine would score a career high 51 points, you'd probably think that's exactly what they did right?
While Luka Doncic came close the other night with his 49/10/9 (in a win), Zach LaVine officially gets us started with the first 50 ball of the season. Normally when a player goes off like this against a rebuilding team like DET, the vibes are great. You snag a much needed road win, the players feel good, the best players are doing crazy shit, stuff like that.
When you watch LaVine's performance above, it is clear what his purpose was.
The Bulls scored 102 points in their 118-102 loss to the Pistons, which means LaVine accounted for half of their points. Of their 93 FGA, he finished with 33 (35%). No other Bull took more than 13 FGA, and he did this all in 37 minutes. That's wild when you see it like that
37 minutes / 33 shots / 51 points
You'd think maybe he'd have some passes or assists every now and then, but he finished with a total of 0 assists.
Essentially, this was the most Zach LaVine-esq performance you'll ever see. Tell me I'm wrong. When he gets going, he's a true microwave scorer. The things LaVine can do offensively when he gets into that zone are pretty awesome to watch. Just don't bank on him ever really creating for others, or honestly, your team even winning the game in which LaVine goes for 50. This was the second time in his career he's done it, and that team is now 0-2. LaVine also had 50 back in 2021 against the Hawks, a game the Bulls lost 120-108.
Really when you take a step back, this performance and result are really a great summary of where the Bulls are. This is NBA purgatory. Not bad enough to truly tank given the talent on the roster, but that talent also might not be good enough to actually win on a consistent basis/contend. This was a night where you had LaVine going nuclear and things were a 7 point game heading into the 4th quarter. All you had to do in that spot is play some defense and manufacture a win, just like the Bulls did against Toronto. Naturally, the Bulls immediately gave up 34 points in the 4th and the best offensive game of LaVine's career was all for nothing. That's tough.
Of course, there are a few ways to look at this. First, it's very early in the NBA season. It hasn't even been a week yet. In the first back to back of the season, both of which games were on the road, all you're really hoping for in a spot like that is at least a split. The Bulls achieved that. That's the good angle. The not so great angle is they're a Raptors collapse away from being 0-3, and don't exactly have an easy stretch on the horizon with @IND/@DAL/BKN/DEN/UTA/PHX/DET/MIL coming up next. Given the parity in the league right now, you don't really want to fall into too deep a hole early, because making up those games as the season goes on is becoming harder and harder.
Then you start to think about what that could mean for DeRozan's expiring contract, or LaVine's overall market, you hear James Harden rumors involving you and I don't think anyone wants that right now, so I think it's fair to suggest that the Bulls are sort of at a crossroads at the moment, and I think LaVine's 51 paired with the loss is a good representation of that.