By Richard Kagan
“Are you not entertained?” That is one of my favorite lines from the movie “The Gladiator”, and it was apt at the United Center. The Chicago Bulls fought off the Detroit Pistons in the final frantic seconds to come away with thrilling win, 107-105.
The game was G Zach LaVine’s season debut as he healed, rehabbed, practiced, and scrimmaged his way into basketball shape. Saturday night he finally took the court and he did not disappoint. LaVine had a fine game, scoring 14 points, hitting three three-pointers on 5 of 9 shooting in 19:10 minutes.
The other young Bulls from that Jimmy Butler trade had very good efforts. Kris Dunn, who is growing leaps and bounds as point-guard, almost had a triple-double when he scored 18 points, had nine boards, and eight assists. Lauri Markkanen, who will get plenty Rookie of the Year votes, led the team with 19 points. Nikola Mirotic, who was sidelined due to a stomach ailment, came back and scored 16 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Bobby Portis scored 15 for Chicago. The Bulls shot 48% from the floor and an impressive 47% from long distance, going 17 – 36. Robin Lopez had a strong game in the low post, notching 12 points.
Avery Bradley scored 26 to lead the Pistons. Andre Drummond had 21 points as Detroit just came up short.
The game was decided late with Markkanen’s basket giving Chicago a 106-105 lead with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter. Chicago held off the Pistons when Kris Dunn blocked a layup attempt with :02 ticks on the clock. There were 23 lead changes and 7 ties. A fan could get neck soreness watching this game. But Chicago (16-27) earned this win by making critical pays down the stretch including Markkanen’s hoop.
Ever since Mirotic came a back to the lineup, the Bulls have improved from a 3-20 team to 16-27 team in a matter of weeks. Now, rumors abound about his trade status. Will he be dealt? The question is when will he be dealt? He has played very well and had a good attitude. Front office thinking is he is now a valuable commodity. With Zach LaVine back in the lineup, Bulls fans have a chance to see what this team can really do.