It’s finally over. One of the Bulls famous streaks have been snapped as they suffered a horrible meltdown against the Toronto Raptors in a 122-120 overtime loss. Toronto came back from 16 down against Chicago in regulation to force overtime with the score knotted at 113. But even despite melting down in regulation, the Bulls had a chance to salvage the game in overtime.
To summarize: they didn’t salvage it. In fact, Chicago did the exact opposite. The Bulls went ice-cold in overtime, scoring 7 points with 5 of them coming with the game already decided. The only “real” basket they scored came with in the opening 15 seconds of the period when Jimmy Butler scored a layup. From then on, it was a horrid showing on offense. Rajon Rondo had been very engaged offensively and the Bulls second-best player, scoring 19 points in the first half. He even hit 4 three-pointers! But like the rest of the Bulls, he went cold at absolutely the wrong time and even missed a point-blank layup during overtime.
If there has been one thing that has been consistent this season with the Bulls: They are really bad at after timeout plays. Chicago had a chance to tie the game back at 117, right after DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto their first lead of the game. But what happened in the next couple of possessions essentially took Chicago out of it.
Hoiberg ATO, Valentine misses the off-balance 3 pic.twitter.com/JGPx7ojJts— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 22, 2017
The play starts off alright with Rajon Rondo getting the inbounds pass and giving it straight to Butler, which is the most obvious and smart play. But then things began to break down when Butler takes the ball at the top of the three-point line. It looks here that the Bulls don't know what to do. Nikola Mirotic comes up to set a screen but then backtracks and it looks like a really awkward fake screen. Getting a switch would make the most sense in this situation given that Butler is guarded by P.J. Tucker, who is a good on ball defender (1.8 DBPM).
Then a few seconds later, Rondo comes back and tries to do a 1-2 pick and roll. But Rondo’s man, Fred VanVleet, does a great job of not getting screened and subsequently doubles Butler with Tucker running over there as well. That leaves Rondo open for a brief second, not a bad thing if you are the Raptors (though he’s been hitting shots lately), until Patrick Patterson steps over to help. Rondo then fires a pass to Denzel Valentine but there is only 6 seconds left on the shot clock. He is still guarded by Cory Joseph and given his tendency to never drive to the basket, we all knew he was going to take a three-pointer. Despite flying right by his man, Joesph does a good job recovering and still contesting on the shot. That forces Valentine to not be able to reset himself and he takes an off-balance three which he misses.
The next time Chicago had the ball, this time down four thanks to a Patrick Patterson putback (someone please teach Chicago’s guards how to box-out), they had another play coming out of a timeout. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.
Hoiberg ATO #2. Butler bricks the 3. Hubie is not happy. pic.twitter.com/PLRoU3Noub— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 22, 2017
Instead of Rondo getting the ball this time, it was Butler. Chicago initially ran a screen for Valentine to get open but then it turned out to be a decoy to set up a double screen for Butler. Jimmy then grabs the ball, turns around and fires a three-pointer that doesn’t even hit the rim, icing the game. Going for a three while only down two isn’t that bad of a play because of a two for one opportunity. But certainly Chicago had to have other options than that.
Another thing to note is that Nikola Mirotic is open once Butler catches the ball. Mirotic’s man, Patrick Patterson, went under both screens and left an ample amount of space for Niko to catch and shoot. That option makes even more sense considering that Tucker hounded Butler for that entire time he was trying to get the ball and was in Butler’s grill when he shot that three. Part of the blame also goes on Mirotic for trying to screen him but failing.
Chicago had a chance to keep the streak alive even after collapsing in regulation and even after they went down in overtime. But two back to back ATO’s that resulted in tough contested shots killed any hope of that.