The Bulls are sliding, but Zach LaVine isn't going down without a fight

K.C. Johnson
NBC Sports Chicago

PHILADELPHIA - With an early tipoff Sunday, the Bulls didn't hold a morning shootaround.

That didn't stop Zach LaVine, who missed Saturday's practice with a stiff neck, from heading over to Wells Fargo Center to test his injury.

"I'm a competitor. I'm going to try to fight for my team," LaVine said. "I don't care if it's one vs. 100. I'm going to go out swinging. I'm going to get my punches in. We're encouraging each other. That's why I wanted to fight through this injury just to let them know that I'm trying to help."

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LaVine did that.

His 32 points and eight assists weren't enough to prevent the Bulls from dropping their fifth straight and falling to 3-21 vs. (current) winning teams following a 118-111 loss to the 76ers.

But his nearly 40-minute performance on a night he didn't feel 100 percent resonated throughout the locker room.

"That was big-time from Zach," Tomas Satoransky said.

LaVine and Satoransky are the only Bulls to start all 54 games in this most injury-plagued of seasons. Coby White has played all 54 games off the bench.

In this day and age of load management and players sitting for bumps and bruises, LaVine is dead set on playing all 82 games. Bad record for his team or not.

"If I can play, I'm going to play. Obviously, it hurts. But I felt pretty good out there. Once adrenalin gets going, I'm good man," LaVine said. "I don't like missing games. Since I hurt myself and I had to miss all those games, it takes a toll on you. I love basketball. I'm going to play if I can."

LaVine is referring to the torn ACL that sidelined him for much of 2017. He admitted until he received some massages on his neck, he wasn't sure if he'd be able to go.

"I was moving like a robot," he said.

But not only did LaVine play, he went on one of his patented scoring barrages, sinking five 3-pointers in the third quarter alone. Then, the 76ers started double-teaming him on most every possession. The result was a season-high nine turnovers for LaVine, including two errant passes in the last two minutes that helped seal the Bulls' fate.

"You want to look for your shot. But if there are two on you, somebody is open. Just tried to be aggressive with the pass and still make the right decision," he said. "I made some bonehead plays throughout the game, careless passes. That stuff comes back to get you. So I'm upset about that. But I'm still trying to make the right play."

Coach Jim Boylen said the performance is another example of LaVine's growth.

"His habits are really good," Boylen said. "It speaks to his growth, his wanting to be a primary guy and performing as a primary guy even when you don't feel well. That's what big-time guys do. And I thought he did it. If you had saw the way he looked and how he was moving to how he fought through today, it was a great thing for us and great thing for him."

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The Bulls are sliding, but Zach LaVine isn't going down without a fight originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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