LaVine’s late heroics give the Bulls their first win of the season

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets on October 24, 2018 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It’s been an interesting 36 hours for the Bulls since they last took the court against the Mavericks.

Most of this had to do with the injury to Kris Dunn, the team’s starting point guard, who will miss 4-to-6 weeks with an MCL sprain that he suffered in the second quarter of Monday’s game in Dallas. He played an entire half after hurting his knee, and was surprisingly revealed early Tuesday afternoon.

It added to the health struggles of the team early in the 2018-2019 season, one that has seen Lauri Markkanen and Denzel Valentine knocked out of the lineup with injuries. The announcement also brought even more negativity to a team that showed a few weaknesses in losing their first three games.

But the one player who has provided a healthy amount of optimism for the Bulls this season rescued the rough start of the week for the team on Wednesday night against the Hornets- and he did so in dramatic fashion.

Zach LaVine, who came into Wednesday’s game averaging over 30 points a game, forced a turnover with five second to go in the game, then drew a foul on the ensuing possession on a drive to the hoop. The guard’s two free throws with .5 second to go gave the Bulls a 112-110 victory.

Its’ their first of the season and completes another memorable evening for LaVine, as he led all scorers with 32 points. In a surprise offensive effort, Cameron Payne scored a career-high 21 points on seven three-pointers as he stepped in for Dunn to start at point guard.

Yet the injury bug bit the Bulls again in the second half with forward Bobby Portis. Racing into the paint on defense, the forward was hit in the knee by a falling Tony Parker and went down in pain. He would walk off on his own power and have the knee scanned on Thursday for a further diagnosis.