4 takeaways from an ugly Chicago Bulls loss, including Zach LaVine’s career-high 51 points — and the Detroit Pistons dominating in the paint

A career night from Zach LaVine paid the Chicago Bulls a brutal reminder Saturday night — one player can’t save this team from themselves.

LaVine scored 51 points in a thunderous offensive performance. His output matched the rest of his teammates combined in another dismal night of shooting by the Bulls that resulted in a 118-102 loss to the Pistons.

The Bulls are 1-2 as they continue a three-game trip with upcoming stops in Indianapolis and Dallas.

Here are four takeaways from the loss.

1. Zach LaVine breaks out with a career night.

After a sluggish opening two games of the season, LaVine erased any doubts of his scoring ability with his career-high performance.

LaVine could have missed the game after suffering back spasms Friday night against the Toronto Raptors. He was listed as probable before the game, and coach Billy Donovan said his availability would be a game-time decision. But LaVine pushed to play, logging 37 minutes.

LaVine made a big statement in the first quarter, playing all 12 minutes and scoring 19 points. He was commanding, directing Coby White to give him the ball and clear out for his first 3-pointer from the top of the arc, then storming to the rim for layups.

After going scoreless in the second quarter, LaVine posted 20 more points in the third, then struggled to get by Ausar Thompson when the rookie was switched onto him, scoring 12 points in the fourth.

LaVine finished 19-for-32 from the field and 7-for-13 from 3-point range.

“He’s unstoppable,” DeRozan said. “We got to do everything else to help when any of our guys get hot and get rolling like that. We got to do all the other stuff to make sure we pull out the win so a night like that don’t go in vain.”

2. The rest of the Bulls didn’t show up.

Sure, LaVine was on fire. But the rest of the Bulls offense … well, that was another story.

The other members of the central trio pulled their weight: DeMar DeRozan contributed 20 points and four assists and Nikola Vucevic added 12 points — though he did have only four rebounds.

But the remainder of the Bulls was nonexistent. Fellow starters Coby White and Patrick Williams went scoreless. The bench combined for 19 points, which included a garbage-time 3-pointer from Dalen Terry.

Outside of LaVine’s shooting, the Bulls finished 20-for-61 (32.8%) from the field and 4-for-15 (26.7%) from 3-point range and registered only 16 assists.

3. Young Pistons exploit the Bulls at the rim.

The Pistons are a young team still putting the pieces together — but the one area they don’t lack is gifted physicality driving to the rim. The Bulls put up minimal resistance at the point of attack, allowing the Pistons to carve up the lane and dominate the glass.

Five Pistons scored in double digits. The Pistons scored 36 points in the paint and 20 second-chance points off 15 offensive rebounds, creating their winning margin through physical dominance around the rim.

4. Alex Caruso and Torrey Craig continue to make a starting — and closing — case over Patrick Williams.

It has become an all-too-common refrain that Williams fades in games, but he was nearly nonexistent from the start Friday. Williams registered only three rebounds while going scoreless. Most important, he did not impose himself defensively against players well-positioned to challenge him at the rim.

Williams is playing himself out of important minutes — he was yanked from the closing quarter of Friday’s game, and Donovan has made it clear he will insert another player into the starting lineup if Williams doesn’t find his footing.

Caruso and Craig are rising as more apt fits. Caruso is the go-to selection for the closing rotation, although Craig also filtered into that role Friday. Neither had a breakout offensive game Saturday — Caruso scored only two points on two shots and Craig went 0-for-2 from 3-point range.

But both maintained their consistent contributions on the defensive end. Caruso had four steals and a block. Craig had a block and three rebounds, ultimately playing a minute more than Williams. If all three players’ form continues, it wouldn’t be surprising to see either replace Williams in his starting and finishing roles.


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