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Chicago’s late-game execution goes awry again (and other Bulls/Nets takeaways)

The Bulls blew a nine point lead late in the 4th quarter and due to poor mistakes on both ends of the court.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

As the season winds down and the Chicago Bulls still hanging on to a playoff spot, they couldn’t afford to drop a game against the Brooklyn Nets. But that’s exactly what they did.

In classic Bulls fashion, Chicago dropped a crucial game against the Brooklyn Nets 107-106 in which the Bulls blew a seven point lead, going ice cold with six and a half minutes remaining. That allowed the Nets to go on a big run and tie up the game at 101 with less than 90 seconds left thanks to a Spencer Dinwiddie three, which took place due to a lapse in the Chicago defense.

(0:23) In this possession Brooklyn decides to go with a Brook Lopez post-up against his brother Robin. As soon as Brook turns to face up against Robin, Dwyane Wade comes over to double team. It was a smart idea to double which would take the ball out of the best players hands and force one of the other guys to make a play and beat you but the execution was poor. With Wade coming over to double, it left Dinwiddie wide open at the top of the three-point line. Jerian Grant, who was also on the three-point line but was guarding someone else, failed to rotate over and left Dinwiddie wide open. The former Bulls guard knocked down the three and tied up the game for Brooklyn.

After two free throws by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to give Brooklyn the lead, Jimmy Butler bailed out Chicago with one of the toughest shots he has hit all season.

Then with the game tied at 103, all Chicago needed was a defensive stop to take the game into overtime or have a chance at winning in regulation. But a poor Dwyane Wade foul on Dinwiddie led to two free throws and the Bulls down 105-103 with 13 seconds left.

There are a lot of moving parts with this ATO play, but focus on Jimmy Butler, who we all knew was going to get the ball. Butler first gets a screen from Robin Lopez and runs to the paint. Meanwhile Wade is setting a screen from Mirotic, who is flaring to the far three-point corner. Wade dashes to the other corner right after. That gives Butler enough space to come back to try and get a clean catch. Lopez gives a half hearted screen right before Butler gets the ball as he is hounded by his defender.

Unlike most Jimmy late game plays, two things are different. This time he goes much quicker than usual, which is obvious due to the fact that they are down in the game and not tied. It’s also different in the way that isn’t not actually an isolation play this time. A few seconds after Butler catches the ball and faces up, Robin Lopez sprints over to set a pick on his right side. The point of it was to get Butler against Brook Lopez, a matchup that Jimmy could certainly score against. But there are problems that came with the switch. It was great defense by Lopez to drive Butler towards the corner and force him to take a tough shot. With Brook shielding his way to the basket, Butler is forced to go to the corner and take a fadeaway three, which he misses.

As much as things went wrong for Butler and the players on the court, Fred Hoiberg has to draw up better ATO plays. This has been a weakness of his for a long time. The flaw has come back to hurt him and the Bulls when it comes to play in crunch time. Jimmy Butler is a great player but he can’t always hit incredibly tough shots with defenders draped all over him. Yes, the way he got the ball was sort of creative but there has to be more to the play then just that.

In a season filled with cringe worthy offense, it seemed fitting that the game ended up with a cringe worthy possession. Butler did miss the shot but the execution to get him the ball along with the fact that there was no actual play designed to try and throw off the defense leaves the blame to fall on Hoiberg.

Rotation questions still linger

The Bulls may still be in the playoffs, but Fred Hoiberg has yet to find a solid rotation. He played 12 guys against Brooklyn with Isaiah Canaan being the only one who didn’t see any game time. After only seeing brief garbage time over several games after a back injury, Cristiano Felicio played 13 minutes. Anthony Morrow got 7 minutes. MCW registed a FANTASTIC +/- of -22 in this game. If the Bulls make the playoffs Hoiberg will have to find out his rotation quick because if he’s still experimenting in game 83, it spells disaster for Chicago in their first round matchup.

Wade is decent in his return

D-Wade made his return to the Bulls in this game and played decently. He scored 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting with 7 rebounds. It was a good stat line for someone who is coming back from an elbow injury and he will have to do his part in helping Chicago get to the playoffs. But who knows if he actually helps the team in coming back, as Wade had 5 turnovers and keeps making errors on the defensive end.