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Grim Bulls Update: Zach LaVine Scores 51 In Double-Digit Loss To Pistons

Zach LaVine prepares to shoot against the Pistons
Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bulls have played three games this season, each one its own journey. After the first game, a 124-104 loss to the Thunder, Bulls coach Billy Donovan entered the locker room to discover "heated conversations" between his players, and excused himself so they could have a players-only meeting. An auspicious start to the season! The Bulls' second game was a rousing 104-103 win over the Raptors in OT, largely fueled by Alex Caruso, who supplied 13 points, 13 rebounds, and a ridiculous amount of defensive value for a guard, ending +29 in his 32 minutes off the bench. He iced the game with a strip and go-ahead corner three. "Like letting the cheetah out of the cage," said teammate DeMar DeRozan of Caruso's physical play. Unironically this time: an auspicious start to the season!

In their third outing, however, Chicago took another turn towards grimness. Zach LaVine, who played poorly in the first two games, had been a game-time decision due to back spasms. He started and put up 51 points as the Bulls lost to the Pistons, 118-102. That sentence is a story unto itself, but if you must know more: LaVine went 7-of-13 on threes, 12-of-20 on twos, 6-of-8 from the line, and contributed zero assists.

It was the second 50-point game of LaVine's career. The previous one, in 2021, was also a double-digit Bulls loss. "It sucks man. I'd much rather take the win," LaVine said at the time. Per Basketball Reference, there have been 158 games in which a player scored at least 50 points in a loss; of those, 38 games were a double-digit loss. LaVine is the author of two of those. Devin Booker and Bernard King also have two apiece. Those three are tied for second, behind Wilt Chamberlain, who comfortably leads with 16 such losses. Chamberlain scored 72 and 70 in double-digit losses, forcing one to conclude that those plumbers and handymen weren't always the victims we remember them as.

Losing to the Pistons is not as dark a mark as it has been in recent years. Cade Cunningham is finally balling in the manner that was prophesied when he went first overall in the 2021 draft. Big man Jalen Duren, taken 13th in the 2022 draft, looks fantastic, averaging 18 points across Detroit's first three games on 80 percent from the field. Rookie Ausar Thompson, picked fifth this year, is filling out some nutritious box scores. But it's still not an ideal outcome for a Bulls squad stocked with league veterans and nominally built to compete. The offense looks a wreck. Non-LaVine Bulls shot 20-of-60 from the field. “For him to do what he did scoring-wise is incredibly remarkable. He is such a pronounced scorer and teams are putting him on the top of every scouting report. But we still lost by double digits,” said Donovan afterward.

"It’s upsetting you have a performance like that and lose. It sucks,” said LaVine.

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