In Zach Lavine’s first game since flexing his offensive muscles in a duel with Jimmy Butler, his bird-chested defense grew some hair on its chest in the waning seconds of Chicago’s 105-101 victory over the Orlando Magic. Regarded as a a gifted athlete with attention defensive disorder, Lavine is a defensive liability. It’s one of the reasons why Tom Thibodeau so giddily swapped him with Butler last June. Lavine’s deficiencies are a push when he’s paired in the backcourt with Kris Dunn, but the second-year guard was absent for 10th consecutive game.
After surrendering an 18-point fourth quarter lead, the Magic were the team in control. With the score tied at 101, and 15 seconds left on the clock, Orlando was inbounding with the shot clock turned off when Lavine swiped Jonathan Simmons’ inbounds from Shelvin Mack and sprinted away for the uncontested, game-winning slam. It was better late than never.
“I was trying to be aggressive on the inbounds, trying to make it hard for (Mack) to catch,” LaVine told reporters, per ESPN. “I wasn’t trying to obviously go for a steal and be able to get out of position, but it opened up like it did.”
Orlando would have an opportunity to pull even on the following possession. Mario Hezonja, scored a game-high 24 points, but was unable to match Lavine’s heroics, hitting all air on potential game-winning, and somewhat ill-advised, 3-pointer.
“I embrace it,” LaVine said. “You have to get it done. Everybody wants to have the ball in their hands at the end of games. But you have to have the confidence and the ability to do it. And I think I do.”
After the change of possession, Lavine, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting, was fouled and drained both of his free throws to hammer the nail into Orlando’s coffin.
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