Zach LaVine makes his annual return to the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday night when he leads the Chicago Bulls up against the host Portland Trail Blazers.
A former standout at Bothell High in Washington, where he was the state’s Mr. Basketball as a prep, LaVine has visited Portland seven times in his NBA career — including four times with the Minnesota Timberwolves — winning just once.
He had his best homecoming performance in his last visit, when he poured in 28 points in a 107-103 loss in November of 2019. His 3-pointer with 31.0 seconds left gave the Bulls a chance at 105-103 before Hassan Whiteside followed in a Damian Lillard miss with 8.0 seconds left to ice the win.
Lillard matched LaVine’s point total with 28 points to pace the Trail Blazers.
LaVine is coming off a season-best, 39-point effort in a 118-108 home win over Dallas on Sunday. The victory was Chicago’s third in its last four games after an 0-3 start, as the Bulls were getting a one-day stopover at home in the middle of a stretch of nine of 11 on the road.
The Portland game tips off a six-day, four-game Western venture that includes one game in Sacramento and two in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers.
LaVine attended college at UCLA.
After the win over Dallas, LaVine seems more excited about his six rebounds, five assists and three steals than his game-high point total.
“My motivation this year is winning, trying to help my team win,” he insisted. “Whatever it has to be, if it’s rebounding, defense, assists, steals, you know, points. Just trying to help my team win. We haven’t made the playoffs. I want to lead with that opportunity as well.
“Whatever I can do to win and try to help. If I go out there and give it my all and check all my boxes, I can be OK with that at the end of the day.”
The last thing the Trail Blazers need is to see another scoring explosion after what they witnessed Sunday night in San Francisco when Golden State’s Stephen Curry went for 62 points in a 137-122 win.
The Trail Blazers had prevailed 123-98 two nights earlier at the same site against the same opponent.
Even though his team had an opportunity to win three of four on a swing through California, Lillard accepted the split and began looking ahead to the Bulls and a run of 10 of 12 at home.
“We can’t hang our heads and beat ourselves up too bad. We just didn’t play a good enough game,” he said. “We are leaving this trip 2-2 and going back home 3-3 (overall). We have to get better and go protect our home court now.”
Lillard has averaged 26.3 points in Portland’s first six games, but actually has been outperformed by backcourt mate C.J. McCollum, who has the head-to-head edge in scoring average (28.0-26.3), field goal percentage (45.5-42.6) and 3-point shooting percentage (43.1-36.5).
Portland has beaten Chicago seven straight times.
The Bulls will be short-handed as they attempt to win for the first time in four years in Portland. Tomas Satoransky is out following a positive COVID test, while teammates Lauri Markkanen and Ryan Arcidiacono likewise are expected to miss the entire Western trip in coronavirus protocol.
–Field Level Media