Wednesday, February 1 2023
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The Orlando Magic won a thriller over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, 108-107, thanks to some last-second heroics by Jalen Suggs. Up by 19 at one point, the Magic had collapsed in the second half and trailed by four with less than 30 seconds to play. Suggs then converted two free throws to cut the deficit to two, before tossing in a 3 to win it and rescue the Magic from what would have been an embarrassing defeat. 

An interesting subplot to the game — Zach LaVine being benched for the final four minutes of the fourth quarter — became a major story after the two-time All-Star’s frustration-filled press conference. LaVine, who shot 1-of-14 in the game, criticized Bulls head coach Billy Donovan for the decision. 

“I got to do a better job at the beginning of the game to make my shots, but you play a guy like me down the stretch,” LaVine said. That’s what I do. Do I like the decision? No. Do I have to live with it? Yeah. Be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.

“Just ask him what his decision was, what made him think that way. Obviously, he wanted to go with some other guys out there, I wasn’t having the best night shooting, but it’s a tough one.”

LaVine, who this summer signed a five-year, $215 million extension and also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, has struggled to find a groove this season. He didn’t suit up for the team’s first two games and has missed multiple contests since then. When he has played, his shots have not been going in. Through 12 games, he’s averaging 20.7 points on 41.5 percent shooting from the field — numbers which are on pace to be his worst in five years. 

Friday night’s outing was a new low. LaVine’s four points were the fewest he’s scored in a full game since 2018 — he had zero points last season against the Golden State Warriors, but left that game after four minutes — and his 7.1 field goal percentage was his worst ever in a game where he took at least 10 shots, per Stathead. 

When Donovan made the decision to send LaVine to the bench in favor of Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls were still down by four points. They quickly turned that deficit on its head, and Donovan’s decision looked like it was going to pay off until the disastrous final few seconds. Still, Donovan stood by the move. 

“I feel like my job, my responsibility in those moments is to try to make the best decisions for the team,” Donovan said. “And I thought that was the best decision at the time. To me, I don’t look at it as anything else but the one-off game where this is what was going on. I know he wanted to be out there. There’s probably not very many games in his career where [LaVine] hasn’t been out there in those moments, but that group was playing well and it gave us a chance.”

The Bulls have now lost four consecutive games to drop to 6-10 on the season, which has them outside of even the play-in positons in a deep Eastern Conference. With the East’s top two teams, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, up next on the schedule the Bulls will need LaVine to step up if they want to avoid an even longer skid. 

Source: CBSSports.com

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