There’s no shame in losing to the Clippers on the road, but the Bulls’ 102-95 loss still brings with it some disappointment. The Bulls blitzed the Clippers early on and jumped out to a 19-point lead, but the offense fell apart late and a questionable call against Jimmy Butler resulted in a tough defeat. Fred Hoiberg even got mad enough to get tossed in the final minute!
Rajon Rondo returned to the lineup Saturday and helped the Bulls get out to a big lead, but Dwyane Wade was the real catalyst to the hot start. Wade knocked down his first four three-point attempts as the Bulls jumped out to that 19-point advantage. Everything was clicking for the Bulls’ offense, as Rondo knocked down a three as well and the frontcourt of Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez also chipped in significant contributions on the offensive end. The Clippers looked sluggish on both ends on the second night of a back-to-back, and it looked like the Bulls were going to come away with another impressive win.
But the Clippers made a charge at the tail end of the first half, and that 19-point lead was down to just five at halftime. The Bulls did a nice job in the third quarter keeping the Clippers at bay, with plenty of little breaks and hustle plays going their way. The lead was still five heading into the fourth quarter, and that’s when things went to crap.
The Bulls’ offense bogged down in the final frame, as Wade lost his touch and Jimmy Butler never found his throughout the entire game. The Bulls shot just 4-of-22 overall and 2-of-11 from three in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Mo Speights was huge off the Clippers’ bench, as he poured in 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. The Bulls had no answer for his outside shooting, and Speights also grabbed a huge offensive rebound over Bobby Portis that then turned into a Jamal Crawford layup. The Bulls themselves were once again huge on the offensive glass (15 offensive rebounds, 17 second chance points), so it’s rather ironic that they gave up a key offensive board and bucket to help lose the game.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to question why Portis was in the game for nearly the entire fourth quarter. Lopez was effective in 26 minutes of play, but it seems Hoiberg didn’t trust him to play against the Speights/Blake Griffin (who was superb all night) frontcourt thanks to their ability to stretch the court. While I kind of get that thinking, it’s still Bobby Portis we’re talking about here, so I’m not sure why Hoiberg rolled with him that long.
As for that dubious call I mentioned earlier, the Bulls had cut their deficit to two points after a nice ATO play resulted in a three-pointer for Isaiah Canaan. Butler then played some excellent defense on Griffin at the top of the key, but with the shot clock running out and Griffin in trouble, Butler was called for a questionable foul as Blake flailed and flung a shot at the rim:
Griffin nailed both free throws and Wade missed a three on the other end, and that was that.
Wade led the Bulls with 28 points, but he really cooled off after the hot start. Butler had 22 points but shot just 5-of-18 from the field as he couldn’t find his jumper. Rondo flirted with a triple-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but he also finished a game-worst -16 and generally wasn’t effective down the stretch.
The Bulls got very little out of their bench, with Nikola Mirotic missing all five of his three-pointers and Canaan, Portis and Jerian Grant not providing much to speak of. Cristiano Felicio and Denzel Valentine both got brief stints and didn’t do anything.
Again, losing to the Clippers on the road isn’t bad, but it still feels like the Bulls gave away one here. They played pretty darn well for three quarters, but the fourth quarter was no good and the call on Butler was unfortunate. I don’t blame Hoiberg for getting pissed, and (MEATBALL ALERT) it was honestly nice to see him show a bit of fire. The Portis decision was certainly questionable, though.
The Bulls don’t have much time to dwell on this loss, as they face an improved Lakers team on Sunday. Hopefully they don’t enjoy the LA nightlife TOO much.