The Bulls played poorly for a good chunk of Friday night’s game against the Lakers at the United Center, but they were actually in position to steal a win thanks to a huge surge early in the fourth quarter. But after taking a 95-92 lead with 4:11 to play on a Nikola Mirotic 3-pointer, the Bulls folded down the stretch and took home a 108-103 loss.
The Bulls looked dead in the water at several points throughout this one. They went down by 17 points in the first quarter before getting back into it, and then they trailed by 13 points early in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers led 89-76 with 10:38 to play after NBA 2K Create-A-Player Alex Caruso converted an and-1 opportunity, but then the Bulls went on a 19-3 run to take that three-point lead. The charge was fueled by Mirotic coming to life after an awful first half, Denzel Valentine, an improved defensive effort and plenty of Lakers incompetence. With the Bulls ratcheting up the pressure, the Lakers looked like they had no idea what they were doing as they fumbled their lead away.
But Luke Walton finally got Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle back into the lineup, and those two made the big plays offensively to get the Lakers the win. Ingram scored 10 of his game-high 25 points down the stretch, and he also added nine boards and five assists as part of a superb overall night. The Lakers outscored the Bulls by 22 with the youngster on the floor, as he was the steady hand they needed with Lonzo Ball out yet again.
Meanwhile, the Bulls just couldn’t get anything to fall late. Zach LaVine capped off a miserable night with two missed free throws in the clutch, a missed driving layup and a bricked 3-pointer to finish 3 of 17 from the field and 2 of 8 from 3. LaVine’s shot selection is definitely something that needs a bit of work, and he clearly is still working himself back into shape. He’s short on a lot of his jumpers and struggled to finish around the rim These are natural struggles to expect, though the poor shot choices are frustrating. He only had one assist despite playing a fair amount of point guard.
Lauri Markkanen also didn’t have a great night. He did have a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. However, he was only 3 of 10 from the field and never truly got involved in the offense enough. Fred Hoiberg did have him bringing the ball up a good amount with Kris Dunn still out and Jerian Grant his usual blah self (how did he wind up with eight assists?), but it didn’t amount to much in terms of his own production.
The Bulls went through several ugly lulls in this game that featured a lot of terrible shots, with the starters really struggling in general. The bench was mostly outstanding, though, with Valentine, Mirotic, Bobby Portis and David Nwaba all contributing. Mirotic led the Bulls in scoring with 18 points on 5 of 13 from the field (he started 1 of 6), while Valentine and Portis had 16 points apiece. Valentine stuffed the stat sheet with 11 rebounds and four assists in one of the better all-around games he has played in a Bulls uniform. Portis grabbed nine rebounds, with five coming on the offensive end as the Bulls racked up 16 offensive rebounds. And, of course, we got Bobby Portis Flex Time.
The Bulls only shot 37.6 percent from the field and 16 of 24 from the charity stripe. The 3-point line was their friend and the great equalizer, which allowed them to make those multiple comebacks. The Bulls shot 17 of 36 from long range, while the Lakers made only five of their 24 3-point attempts. But that 36-point advantage from distance wasn’t enough to make up for the Bulls’ awful shooting elsewhere.
The Bulls have now lost three straight games to drop to 18-31 on the year. They clearly miss Kris Dunn running the ship, and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be ready all that soon, so the tank might be firing back up (currently in the seventh position). Next up is Sunday afternoon against the Bucks, who will be out for a little revenge after losing twice at home to the Bulls already this year.