The Chicago Bulls will be without Zach LaVine for the rest of the campaign.

LaVine, who has had a stop-start season, will undergo surgery on a foot issue next week.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan confirmed on Saturday that LaVine, who has not played since mid-January due to an ankle sprain, had elected to go under the knife and will miss between four and six months.

"He made a decision he felt was best for his health," Donovan said.

"I really feel like he did everything he could to try to get himself back to playing.

"The discomfort in his foot was at a place where I think he didn't feel like he had any chance to be himself. That was the really frustrating part of it.

"He's kind of been in and out, but certainly you'd like to have a player of his calibre available.

"Now with the news coming out we'll have to play without him. I've always said when you lose really good players, it impacts your team."

Zach LaVine knows the Chicago Bulls must swiftly discover a winning formula after Saturday's loss to the Detroit Pistons.

LaVine had a career-high 51 points but it was not enough for the Bulls to avoid a second defeat of the campaign.

Chicago lost 118-102 in Detroit, as they failed to build on their 104-103 defeat of the Toronto Raptors.

The Bulls have made the playoffs just once since the start of the 2017-18 season, and LaVine knows Chicago must expect better.

"It's our third year here together, and we know how this business is," said LaVine, who became the first Bulls player with 50 points and no assists since the legendary Michael Jordan against the Miami Heat in November 1996.

"We all love each other. DeMar [DeRozan] is one of my best friends, and we talk all the time, but we have to figure out how to make this work.

"I wasn't happy with the way I was performing and the way the offense was looking. It's upsetting you have a performance like that and lose. It sucks.

"We don't want this to snowball where we have our backs against the wall. We are working every day. We have to figure it out."

LaVine was a late pick for Saturday's game, having overcome back issues to play.

"You know me, I'm going to play," he added.

Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan labelled Zach LaVine as "extraordinary" after his 30 second-half points lifted them past the Toronto Raptors 109-105 in their play-in tournament game on Wednesday.

LaVine finished with 39 points as the Bulls advanced to take on the Miami Heat for the right to the eight seed and a playoffs first round series against Eastern Conference top seed Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls guard's 30-point second half was the most points he has scored in any half this season, fuelling a fightback after trailing by 19 points.

"What he did going into the third quarter and into the fourth, it would have been very, very difficult for us to have won that game if he had not done that," Donovan said about LaVine.

"His performance was extraordinary. It gave us life and it gave us hope. Then once we got back into it, I think a lot of guys made a lot of different plays.

"But I give him credit, he had that mentality that he's going to do whatever he can do to get us back into the game."

LaVine put his second-half success down to "aggressiveness" and driving to the basket, capitalising on the Raptors trying to double-team DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 points and seven rebounds. DeRozan called LaVine "amazing" and said the Bulls followed his lead.

Meanwhile, the loss ended the Raptors' season, meaning they have missed the playoffs in two of their past three seasons, putting pressure on head coach Nick Nurse to retain his job.

"It was tough," Nurse said reflecting on the 2022-23 season. "I think we had some up and downs. I thought we came out of the gates playing pretty well. Then we had to weather some injuries and we did that and once we got everybody back that got us out of rhythm and took a couple tough losses.

"I've told the guys several times in the last two weeks, I'm proud of them for getting back to .500 when they were six or seven games below .500, because we did coach them hard and work them hard to rebuilding some of the foundational stuff.

"I thought we played well enough to win tonight, it just didn’t go our way."

Nurse lamented his side's 50 per cent free-throw shooting, making 18-of-36, not helped by DeRozan's daughter Diar, who screamed with a shrill every time they had an attempt from the line.

"That's a lot of misses," Nurse said. "We left a lot of points on the board."

DeRozan laughed off his daughter's antics which caught plenty of attention on social media given her persistent nature throughout the game.

"I've just seen it, she went viral," he said. "I kept hearing something during the game and when somebody missed a free-throw I thought 'damn, is that my daughter screaming?' I was just making sure she was alright though."

DeRozan added that Diar would not be able to attend Friday's play-in game on the road against the Heat, instead needing to go back to school.

The NBA regular season has come to a close, which means the postseason is on the horizon to excite fans with its unpredictability and drama.

First, though, the play-in format returns for its third season and promises to once again add all sorts of further intrigue to the playoff picture.

The mini tournament takes place over April 11-14, with the teams that finished seventh and eighth playing one another to determine the seventh playoff seed from their respective conference, while the loser of that game gets a chance to secure the eighth seed when they host the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds.

Therefore, the teams that finish seventh or eighth only need to win one game to advance to the playoffs, while those in ninth and 10th must win two.

Whoever clinches the seventh seed in the East will face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, while the eighth seed will take on the Milwaukee Bucks. In the West, the seventh seed will go up against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the eighth seed will be paired with the Denver Nuggets.

Stats Perform previews the eight teams looking to secure their place in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Tuesday, April 11 – Miami Heat (7th) vs Atlanta Hawks (8th) 

One of these teams has made the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the last three seasons, although that trend appears unlikely to continue this year.

After starting the season 2-5, the Heat soon recovered some sort of form without threatening to repeat the performances that saw them clinch the top seed in the East the previous year. They at least strung together a solid run over December and January, going 19-11, to boost their playoff hopes.

The Heat will be favourites in this matchup, having gone 4-1 in April and 3-1 against the Hawks this season, including winning back-to-back games in Miami in early March.

The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will be key, with all three scoring over 20 points per game in the regular season.

Opponents Atlanta went 7-3 to start the season, but their form dipped towards the end of 2022, before picking up again in January.

Trae Young, the star of their 2021 run, will be hoping to lead his team back to the playoffs, having averaged 26.2 points and 10.2 assists in the regular season, and the Heat's ability to stop him could be the key in this one.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – Toronto Raptors (9th) vs Chicago Bulls (10th)

The Raptors have done well to reach this stage after a poor first half to the campaign, starting 16-23, but an improvement in 2023 saw them end level with the Hawks with an even .500 record.

Pascal Siakam averaged 24.2 points from his 71 games in the regular season, while Fred VanVleet (19.3) will also be required to lend a hand.

Chicago, who ended with a 40-42 record, will look to the pairing of Zach LaVine (24.8) and DeMar DeRozan (24.5) for inspiration after a promising end to the regular season on an 11-6 run.

The Raptors were 2-1 against the Bulls this season, including winning their most recent meeting in Toronto in late February on the back of a fourth-quarter fightback.

This promises to be another intriguing encounter.

Western Conference:

Tuesday, April 11 – Los Angeles Lakers (7th) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8th)

This has been a fascinating season for the Lakers, who looked down and out but recovered to such an extent they ended up disappointed they had to settle for a play-in spot.

LeBron James and co. started 0-5 and then 2-10 as the word "crisis" was tossed about by all and sundry.

However, a subsequent run of 8-2 propelled them into a season few could have imagined in early November, while they also finished the year strongly on a 9-2 run.

James (28.9 points) and Anthony Davis (25.9) have each had injury issues, playing just 55 and 56 games respectively, but they have crucially found form and fitness at this crucial stage in the season.

 

The Timberwolves also have talent but come into this with a bit of a cloud over them after the fracas between big-trade flop Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson in their final game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Minnesota started 2-0 against the Lakers this season, but Davis had 38 points and 17 rebounds in a big win when the teams met less than two weeks ago.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – New Orleans Pelicans (9th) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (10th)

The biggest story around this one centres on who will not be there, as Zion Williamson continues to sit on the sideline with a hamstring injury.

The Pelicans' star man averaged 26.0 points this season but played only 29 games and none since January 2.

Updates from New Orleans have remained vague, although Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has spoken of a "best possible outcome" that would "maybe" see Williamson in practice around the first round. Again, "if everything lined up perfectly".

That means Brandon Ingram will be required to carry the scoring burden for now, a task he warmed up for in fine style with a 42-point return against the Timberwolves on Sunday.

The Thunder will look to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead them into the postseason, with the 24-year-old averaging 31.4 points this year, the fourth-most in the league.

New Orleans were 3-1 against OKC this season, but the Thunder won their last game in March with Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 35 – albeit the Pelicans were without Ingram as well as Williamson.

The Golden State Warriors snapped a run of 11 consecutive road losses by defeating the Houston Rockets 121-108 on Monday.

Entering the game with the third-worst road record in the league (7-29), the Warriors had not won away from home since January 30 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After a back-and-forth first three quarters, the Warriors called on the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, to close the show, igniting a 37-28 final period to pull away.

The duo combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter, and they finished with remarkably similar games.

Curry top scored with 30 points on 10-of-23 shooting, hitting five-of-15 from deep with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block. Meanwhile, Thompson posted 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting, hitting five-of-13 from deep with seven rebounds, a steal and a block.

With promising young Rockets center Alperen Sengun out, it was an opportunity for first-round rookie Tari Eason to earn his fourth start of the season, and he capitalised with 21 points (nine-of-16), 12 rebounds and four steals. Third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr added 17 points (seven-of-15) and 11 rebounds.

With the win, the Warriors pulled above .500 at 37-36, and combined with the Dallas Mavericks' 112-108 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, they have climbed out of the play-in tournament placings and up into the sixth seed in the West.

Knicks waste Randle's career night

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle scored a career-high 57 points as his side went down in a 140-134 shoot-out against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Randle had never previously scored more than 47 in a game, but he shot 19-of-29 from the field, eight-of-14 from three-point range and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line to set a new benchmark.

Unfortunately for him, the Timberwolves also could not miss, shooting 14-of-24 (58.3 per cent) from three-point range as a team, as they were buoyed by an outrageously efficient night from veteran wing Taurean Prince. 

Prince shot 12-of-13 from the field and a perfect eight-of-eight from three for 35 points, while veteran point guard Mike Conley ran the show with 24 points (six-of-11) and 11 assists.

The Timberwolves (36-37) sit eighth in the West, just a game behind the Warriors.

Embiid fouls out in double-overtime loss

Joel Embiid led both teams in scoring and rebounding but crucially fouled out in double-overtime as his Philadelphia 76ers fell 109-105 against the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid, now the favourite to win his first MVP, scored a game-high 37 points (11-of-22 shooting), grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, and blocked a game-high three shots before picking up his sixth foul early in the second extra period.

Zach LaVine top scored for Chicago with 26 points (eight-of-20), seven assists and three steals, while DeMar DeRozan was just as good with 25 points (10-of-22), eight rebounds and three steals.

The win gives the Bulls (34-37) a two-game buffer on the Washington Wizards (32-39) in the race for the East's final play-in spot.

Zach LaVine insists the Chicago Bulls will "throw everything at these last 22 games" after returning to winning ways with a 131-87 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

LaVine scored 32 points at United Center as the Bulls ended a six-match losing streak, inflicting their opponents' heaviest defeat and holding them to their lowest score of the season.

DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 17 points on his return from injury, as did Patrick Williams, while Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond each had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Patrick Beverley also made his start since signing with the Bulls, having negotiated a buyout with the Orlando Magic having been traded by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls moved to within 1.5 games of a play-in place in the Eastern Conference, and LaVine urged his team-mates to replicate their performance levels against the Nets going forward.

"I think that's what we have to do from here on out and throw everything at these last 22 games, because we understand where we are," LaVine said. "We have to put that type of energy into it."

Coach Billy Donovan added: "I thought, collectively, the group was pretty connected on both ends with the way they played.

"I thought our effort to get out there and contest and challenge shots and try to make it difficult was good. I thought the group that started the game was really good."

Chicago Bulls All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine both described Thursday's 126-108 win against the Detroit Pistons in France as a "beautiful" experience.

Playing at the Accor Arena in Paris, the Bulls were too strong as LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic all put together stylish performances in front of a crowd packed with celebrities, including former Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and future top NBA Draft pick Victor Wembanyama.

LaVine scored a game-high 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting, DeRozan posted 26 points (nine-of-18) with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Vucevic snatched a game-high 15 rebounds to go with 16 points and six assists from the center position.

It was a disappointing homecoming for Detroit's Killian Hayes, who was drafted out of France, as he shot two-of-13 from the field, but nobody had more than his eight assists.

While it may be a long flight home for the Pistons, the Bulls were left with a great taste in their mouth as they enter the second half of the season.

"It was amazing," DeRozan said. "One of those games I'll look back years down the line and think about how great it was. It was a beautiful atmosphere and a privilege to be here and be part of this whole thing."

LaVine echoed those sentiments, highlighting the team bonding during this kind of trip.

"It was great for us, going into the second half of the season, spending time together, bonding," he said. "Everybody seeing each other's family, who they brought and care about. It was a great experience overall.

"The atmosphere was great, and the Bulls' brand recognition… it was great to see. You see how much the game is growing, and how much people are locked in to see the players. 

"It's beautiful – I'm definitely coming back to Paris again, maybe for a wine trip."

With the win, the Bulls are now 21-24 and sit 3.5 games behind the Miami Heat in the race for the Eastern Conference's six seed.

Chicago Bulls' All-Star guard Zach LaVine says he "feels like me again" after scoring a combined 77 points in back-to-back games capped by his side's 126-118 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

LaVine starred with 41 points including 11 three-pointers in Friday's 126-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, following that up with 36 on 12-of-21 shooting against the Jazz.

That marks the best form that the 27-year-old has achieved this season after undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery in the offseason.

"First couple of back to backs, I played and didn't feel great," LaVine told reporters.

"[Now] I feel great. Legs feel healthy. Felt springy at the beginning of the game. It's good to feel like me again."

On Friday, LaVine hit 11 of his 13 three-point attempts (84.6 per cent), joining Stephen Curry as the only players in NBA history to hit at least 11 three-pointers in a game at over 80 per cent efficiency.

LaVine shot another six-of-12 from beyond the arc against the Jazz, including three in a row to push the Bulls' lead to eight.

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan encouraged LaVine to take on more three-point attempts.

"For us to generate more threes, he can be a big part of that," Donovan said.

"Then he's got to find a balance between shooting those threes and obviously getting downhill and either getting to the basket or passing and creating offense for others."

Chicago's win over the Jazz made it three in a row, along with eight victories from their past 11 games, during which they have the fourth best offensive rating in the NBA.

"It always helps when your best players are playing well and you're focused on the other end," LaVine said.

"We're playing well. We're making big plays. I'm not saying we're playing perfect, but we're competing.

"We're coming to each game with a certain type of energy and confidence and we need to keep taking it game by game. We're not trying to look ahead and get ahead of ourselves."

Zach Lavine torched the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night to deliver a 126-112 road win for the Chicago Bulls.

Lavine finished two points off his season-high with 41 points on 14-of-19 shooting, and he made history with his marksmanship from long range.

He hit 11 of his 13 three-point attempts (84.6 per cent), joining Stephen Curry as the only players in NBA history to hit at least 11 three-pointers in a game at over 80 per cent efficiency.

Over his past five games, Lavine is averaging 27.6 points while shooting 54.8 per cent from the field, 55.3 per cent from deep and 96.2 per cent at the free throw line.

Against the 76ers, Lavine was supported well by third-year forward and former top-five draft pick Patrick Williams, who scored 18 points on seven-of-11 shooting with six rebounds. 

It is the latest impressive sign from Williams, who had his best game of the season on Wednesday with 22 points (six-of-eight shooting), seven rebounds and two steals in an upset win over the Brooklyn Nets.

The 76ers were without franchise centrepiece Joel Embiid, and James Harden put together a poor performance, finishing four-of-17 from the field for his 17 points and 11 assists.

Chicago have won seven of their past 10 to improve their record to 18-21 – two games behind the Eastern Conference's eight seed, currently occupied by the Miami Heat (20-19).

Lakers win fourth on the trot

LeBron James was at his playmaking best in the Los Angeles Lakers' 130-114 victory on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.

James had 17 points and 10 assists at three-quarter time, and after the Hawks cut the margin to 10 points early in the last period, James responded by scoring eight of the Lakers' next 10 points to put the game to bed.

He shot 10-of-19 for his 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Russell Westbrook flirted with another triple-double off the bench, posting 18 points (seven-of-14), 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Nuggets take top spot in the West

The Denver Nuggets (26-13) are now alone atop the Western Conference standings after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-108.

It is the Nuggets' ninth win from their past 11 fixtures, and they were once again carried by reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic with 28 points (10-of-17 shooting), 15 rebounds and 10 assists.

Jokic averaged 29.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists during the month of December as he continues to build a case to become the first MVP three-peat since Larry Bird from 1984-86.

The Brooklyn Nets will look to extend their winning streak to 13 games when they travel to take on the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.

Brooklyn's current 12-game run is the best streak in the NBA this season, and they are showing no signs of slowing down, with their past two victories against the San Antonio Spurs (139-103) and the Charlotte Hornets (123-106) coming by a combined 53 points.

Over that 12-game span, the Nets have gapped the field as the best offensive team in the league. In fact, their 124.2 points per 100 possessions is 6.0 points better than the second-placed Portland Trail Blazers (118.2).

That gap is greater than the distance between the Trail Blazers and the 24th-ranked Minnesota Timberwolves (112.9).

Their offensive firepower has been ignited by some unbelievable, and perhaps unsustainable efficiency by their All-NBA duo.

Over the past 12 games, Kevin Durant is shooting 59.2 per cent from the field – well above his career-best field goal percentage of 53.7 from his 2016-17 and 2020-21 campaigns. It is the same story for Kyrie Irving, who has led the team with 29.3 points at 54.3 per cent shooting, which would both comfortably set new career-highs.

The all-time record for team three-point percentage in a season belongs to the 1996-97 Charlotte Hornets at 42.7 per cent, while during this stretch the Nets have shot the three-ball at an unprecedented 44.2 per cent.

Unless that pair – who are both in their 30s – as well as the Nets as a whole are truly about to shatter their own personal and franchise records, they will, at some point, have to come back down to earth.

However, there is no indication the Bulls will be the team equipped to stand in their way.

During the Nets' winning streak, the Bulls have had the third-worst defense in the NBA, conceding 119.2 points per 100 possessions.

A big part of that has been their inability to rebound and finish off their defensive possessions. They are allowing 16.8 second-chance points per game – the second-most – while at the same time being the league's worst offensive rebounding team, grabbing only 21.9 per cent of their own misses.

The Bulls have also been the absolute worst team in the league at restricting three-pointers, allowing an average of 15.7 made threes per game at an efficient 38.6 per cent.

But while the three-pointer has been the Nets' best friend and the Bulls' worst enemy, it is also the most volatile method of scoring, and teams will generally regress to the mean over the course of an 82-game season.

It means the Nets will not keep shooting this well, and the Bulls will not continue to get lit up from long range at this rate – and while it is impossible to predict when things will begin to swing in the opposite direction, both teams are due for a change of fortune.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Brooklyn Nets – Kyrie Irving 

While Durant is the Nets' undisputed best player, Irving is the X-factor, and his strong games generally coincide with wins.

Irving is shooting 52.6 per cent from the field and 43.7 per cent from deep in the 18 wins he has been a part of, while those figures plummet to 44.9 per cent from the field and 24.7 per cent on three-pointers in his nine losses.

Chicago Bulls – Zach Lavine

It is a similar story for the Bulls, who have DeMar DeRozan as their consistent centrepiece, but rely on Zach Lavine to bring the additional firepower to a team lacking in three-point threats.

For the season, the Bulls are hitting just 10.6 three-pointers per game – the fourth-worst figure in the league – but in the 15 wins Lavine has played in he has hit 3.5 threes per game at a red-hot 46.1 per cent clip. It is a stark difference to his 2.2 made threes at 30.6 per cent in his 18 losses.

KEY BATTLE – Who can control the paint?

It seems clear that whoever catches fire from long range will likely emerge victorious, but with so much volatility attached to high-volume three-point shooting, it may come down to whichever team gets the easiest baskets.

A diet of lay-ups, dunks and free throws will always be the most sustainable form of offense, and the Nets are a team that lack much true size beyond starting center Nic Claxton.

If Bulls center Nikola Vucevic can impose his will on Claxton early and perhaps get him into foul trouble, it could open up the paint and force Ben Simmons to play extended minutes as the Nets' primary rim protector, which is not where he shines defensively.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Bulls have won three of their past four meetings with the Nets, including the most recent fixture on November 1, coming away 108-99 victors after holding Irving to just four points.

Zach LaVine was relieved to put "a career-worst night" behind him by galvanising the Chicago Bulls for a victory that denied the Boston Celtics a 10-game winning streak.

The two-time All-Star had a lousy game against the Orlando Magic on Friday, tallying just four points, but he was back on it as the Bulls snatched a 121-107 victory over Boston.

Zach Lavine was five-of-10 on three-pointers for his 22 points, but it was his all-round effort that most impressed Bulls coach Billy Donovan.

The Celtic were on a nine-game roll, but they were no match for the Bulls on Monday.

LaVine said: "We've lost a lot in a row and they've won a lot in a row. I think we're a really good team, but we go through little lapses or times where we play bad. That's how fast the game can change."

He said of his sorry showing against Orlando: "Everybody has a career-worst night. I guess that was my night."

Coach Donovan commended the 27-year-old for putting the misfiring Magic game to the back of his mind, and refocusing.

Donovan said of LaVine: "I thought he played a great game tonight. I've got an enormous amount of confidence in his offense, in his ability to shoot the ball. He's done that his entire career, he's a lead at it.

"That will come back as he continues to play, and we're doing something differently offensively that he's having to work through, get accustomed to.

"There's a lot of things he can do to impact a game. Even though I think he missed his first three shots, it's probably not going to show up on the stats sheets but he generated a lot of open shots for our guys.

"He didn't shoot the ball at the percentage rate that he normally does, but I'm not worried about it.

"I thought his fingerprints were all over the game in a lot of different ways. He still got 22 points, but he did it defensively, he did it with his passing, he tried to get in there and rebound, he made good decisions.

"I thought he did a lot of extremely positive things."

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting, hitting all three of his long-range attempts.

Zach LaVine conceded he had a poor night against the Orlando Magic but questioned the decision to leave him off the court in the closing stages as the Chicago Bulls lost 108-107 on Friday.

DeMar DeRozan top scored with 41 as the Bulls fought back in the second half after trailing by 14 at half-time, but the hosts ended up throwing away a four-point advantage with 20 seconds left.

Two-time All-Star LaVine had a night to forget, scoring four points from over 25 minutes on the court as he made just one from 14 field goal attempts, leading to him being left out in the last few minutes by coach Billy Donovan.

"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 after the game. "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 [Donovan] 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."

Donovan also cut a frustrated figure after the home defeat, and insisted it was a specific call for the situation in-game.

"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 Brooklyn Nets started life after Steve Nash with a 108-99 defeat to the Miami Heat as under-fire Kyrie Irving struggled with four points on two-of-12 shooting on Tuesday.

The Nets announced earlier on Tuesday that Nash had been fired following their 2-5 start to the season, with assistant coach Jacque Vaughn taking charge in his absence.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points with nine rebounds for the Nets who led 58-52 at half-time before the Bulls charged home in the fourth quarter, led by Zach LaVine who had 20 of his 29 points in the final period.

LaVine top scored for the Bulls, including five-of-11 three-point shooting with four rebounds and five assists, while DeMar DeRozan added 20 points and center Nikola Vucevic hauled down 15 rebounds.

Irving, who has faced widespread backlash for sharing a film on social media with alleged anti-Semitic connotations, battled throughout with three turnovers while making none of his six three-point attempts.

The win improved the Bulls to 4-4, while the Nets fall to 2-6, with a 2-4 record at Barclays Center this season.

Golden State's road struggles continue

Reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, slumped to their third straight defeat as Jimmy Butler fired late to lift the Miami Heat to a 116-109 win.

Butler, who finished with 23 points with six rebounds and eight assists, scored five straight points down the stretch to give the Heat the lead which they never surrendered.

Kyle Lowry moved past Jason Kidd into 12th on the all-time NBA three-pointers made list, scoring three triples in his 13 points.

Stephen Curry recorded his 10th regular-season triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists, but he could not prevent the Warriors' road woes (0-4) continuing, dropped to 3-5 overall.

Johnson shines as Suns burn

Cam Johnson drained seven three-pointers as the Phoenix Suns maintained their perfect home record this season and moved to 6-1 overall with a 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Johnson finished with 29 points, 21 coming from beyond the arc on seven-of-11 three-point shooting, while Devin Booker took a back seat with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Chris Paul had 14 points, 12 assists and a team-high eight rebounds for the Suns who clinched their fifth straight win. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards both had 24 points for the Timberwolves.

Joel Embiid scored 40 points but it was not enough to prevent the Philadelphia 76ers from slumping to a 0-3 start to the new NBA season after a 114-105 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

James Harden had minimal impact in the second half as Spurs small forward Doug McDermott took control with an eight-point burst, capping his 14 points, which all came in the second half.

The 76ers, who had been beaten by contenders, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, to open their season, squandered Embiid's huge game where he shot 14-of-25 from the field and hauled down 13 rebounds with two blocks.

Harden only added 12 points on four-of-18 shooting, making one-of-six three-point attempts. The former MVP provided 12 assists with nine rebounds and two blocks, but was inconspicuous in the second half with the game up for grabs, with the Spurs defense denying him good looks.

Tyrese Maxey contributed 25 points for the 76ers, including three triples, but Philadelphia slumped to their first 0-3 start since 2016-17.

Devin Vassell (22 points with nine-of-14 field shooting, including four three-pointers) and Keldon Johnson (21 points with eight rebounds) were San Antonio's most productive offensive players.

Mitchell betters LeBron start for Cavs

Donovan Mitchell scored 32 points as he claimed his first win as a Cleveland Cavaliers player in their 128-96 victory over the Chicago Bulls in their home season opener.

Mitchell achieved a feat that not even LeBron James could, becoming the first Cavs player with back-to-back 30-point games to open a season.

The All-Star, who made a high-profile trade from the Utah Jazz to the Cavs in the off-season, landed four-of-six from beyond the arc with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Zach LaVine returned after off-season knee surgery that forced him to miss Chicago's opening two games to top score for the Bulls with 23 points.

Giannis powers Bucks past Rockets

Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed 28 minutes to put on an MVP-like display as the Milwaukee Bucks routed the Houston Rockets 125-105 in their home opener at Fiserv Forum.

Antetokounmpo scored 44 points, shooting 17-of-21 from the field with two three-pointers, along with 12 rebounds and three assists.

The Greek forward became Milwaukee's all-time free throws leader, shooting eight-of-13 from the stripe to exceed Sidney Moncrief's 3,505 record, before sitting out with 8:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jayson Tatum also scored 40 points to lead the 3-0 Boston Celtics past the 0-3 Orlando Magic 126-120, while Paul George had 40 in the Los Angeles Clippers' 111-109 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Zach LaVine is targeting an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls after the All-Star guard sealed his five-year contract extension with the team.

Not since the Michael Jordan-led glory years of the 1990s have the Bulls reigned above the rest in the NBA.

Their six championships in that decade account for all the NBA titles that the Bulls have won, and there have been lean times since then.

They halted a run of four seasons without a playoffs appearance by making it to the postseason in 2021-22, only to fall in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks.

LaVine has agreed to a five-season, $215.2million maximum extension, and the former Minnesota Timberwolves man has high hopes for what may lie ahead.

He said: "Individually, I'm wanting to keep pushing myself to reach higher and higher things. If it isn't All-NBAs, if it isn't MVPs, team-wise, it's win a championship.

"I think there's nothing above that. You've heard me say individual things come with winning, and the better and better we get as a team, and I keep pushing myself to get better as a player, those things can match up."

 

Acquired from Minnesota in 2017 as part of a draft-day trade that sent six-time All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves, LaVine has emerged as one of the NBA's most consistent scorers during his time in Chicago.

The 27-year-old joined the legendary Jordan as the only players in franchise history to average 23 or more points per game in four consecutive seasons after averaging 24.4 per game in 2021-22.

LaVine also shot 38.9 per cent from three-point range and 85.3 per cent from the free-throw line this past season to earn his second straight All-Star nod and help the Bulls reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.

The Bulls are retaining a core that also includes 2021-22 All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Nikola Vucevic and playmaking point guard Lonzo Ball. That group led Chicago to a 46-36 finish last season, their most victories since 2014-15, and a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Speaking about his max contract, LaVine said: "There's no extra added pressure. It's just who I am, and what goals and what things I want to reach, and how much better can we get as a team."

He added: "Chicago is my home. We've built something over the last two, three [years]. Being able to come back as a cornerstone piece and allowing them to get some of my insights, some of my input in constructing the roster to help me and help us win, was really big for me."

LaVine said there was "no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams", suggesting that would have been "disrespectful on my end because they gave me everything that I asked for".

He said he still gave plenty of thought to what he wanted.

"But my heart was in Chicago," LaVine said.

After undergoing knee surgery in May, LaVine is optimistic he will be in prime shape for next season.

"I feel way better. I've been rehabbing, working out, playing, lifting, doing all the good stuff and boring stuff, too," he said. "I feel really good, and over the next two months, getting back into the season, I feel like I'm gonna be even better."

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