Sur­viv­ing at buzzer

Parker blocks shot as time runs out to pre­serve win over Cavs

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NBA AND NHL - By K.C. John­son kcjohn­son@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @kcjhoop

Fred Hoiberg didn’t need to be told the Bulls played the rare role of fa­vorites Satur­day night.

“First time,” the Bulls coach cracked.

Thank­fully for the Bulls, they face the Cava­liers three more times. So the odds­mak­ers could be smil­ing fa­vor­ably upon them again.

But even with LeBron James gone to the Lak­ers, Kevin Love in­jured and now a 1-11 record, the Cava­liers ral­lied from a 16-point deficit to make the Bulls sweat. They needed Jabari Parker’s blocked shot of rookie Collin Sex­ton’s put­back at­tempt at the buzzer to sur­vive with a 99-98 vic­tory.

“It might be a lit­tle bit more open be­cause LeBron left,” Zach LaVine said of fac­ing the Bulls’ long­time neme­sis. “But it’s still hard to win in this league. That’s what we’re try­ing to learn to do.”

If the Bulls con­tinue to dis­play the de­fen­sive strides they’re mak­ing, they might. Parker even sur­pris­ingly re­turned to the floor for a de­fen­sive pos­ses­sion for his star turn, re­plac­ing Wen­dell Carter Jr.

“They had a very small lineup, five shoot­ers spread,” Hoiberg said. “We went with guys who had been in that po­si­tion. And Jabari made a great play.”

Parker scored five fourth-quar­ter points and ably de­fended once when switched on to Sex­ton, who scored a ca­reer-high 20 points. Sex­ton beat Ar­cidi­a­cono on the Cava­liers’ fi­nal pos­ses­sion only to come up short on his layup at­tempt be­fore his put­back, one of 15 Cavs of­fen­sive re­bounds.

“I thought I did a good job of stay­ing in front of him and made him take a tough, kind of dou­ble­clutch look,” Ar­cidi­a­cono said. “And I got Jabari to come over to help. It was a solid stop at the end.”

Did Parker think he’d be on the floor for a pos­ses­sion on which the Bulls needed a stop?

“Not sure, but I just stayed ready,” he said.

The pos­ses­sion fol­lowed a turnover by LaVine, who passed to Carter as Carter came up to set a screen.

“Dumb mis­take,” LaVine said. “I thought he was look­ing. That’s my bad. But we made a good de­fen­sive stand. We’re learn­ing. And this win means we’re grow­ing.”

LaVine con­tin­ued his scor­ing prow­ess, throw­ing down three high­light-reel dunks and fin­ish­ing with 24 points, eight re­bounds and five as­sists in a sen­sa­tional ef­fort. LaVine has scored 20 or more points in a ca­reer-best 14 straight games, in­clud­ing all 13 this sea­son.

“I thought it was Zach’s best game as far as mak­ing the sim­ple play,” Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg dropped Cameron Payne to third-string point guard be­hind Ryan Ar­cidi­a­cono and Shaquille Har­ri­son and kept Robin Lopez ahead of Cris­tiano Fe­li­cio in the big-man ro­ta­tion. Ar­cidi­a­cono cel­e­brated his first NBA start by scor­ing 10 of his ca­reer­high 15 points in the first quar­ter and con­tin­u­ing to lead the team in floor burns.

“I love the in­tan­gi­bles that Arch brings to this team,” Hoiberg said. “He’s an ef­fort guy. He’s go­ing to sac­ri­fice his body. He’s taken more charges al­ready this year than, I think, any­body took in a full 82 games a year ago . ... Arch de­serves it.”

Hoiberg cited Ar­cidi­a­cono’s fit with Parker as an­other rea­son for the move. But he eas­ily could’ve fin­gered Payne’s strug­gles. While Ar­cidi­a­cono moved to third in the NBA in as­sists-to-turnover ra­tio, Payne shot 29.3 per­cent in his last five games.

Har­ri­son fared well with six points, three steals and three as­sists in his 18 re­serve min­utes. So who knows when Payne will re­turn to the ro­ta­tion.

“I talked to Cam about it,” Hoiberg said. “He was good. He needs to keep work­ing, which I know he’ll do. He’s in this gym as much if not more than any­body else on this team.”

The game also fea­tured the Bulls’ first look at David Nwaba, who signed a min­i­mum con­tract with the Cavs after the Bulls re­scinded his qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to sign Parker. Nwaba played well for the Bulls last sea­son.

“I thought there was room for me,” Nwaba said. “They had a dif­fer­ent plan.”

Zach LaVine, above, had an­other strong game, but the Bulls still needed Jabari Parker’s block of Collin Sex­ton to seal the win.

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