We’ll start at the end, a last-second tip-in by Paul Millsap allowed his Nuggets to steal a 108-107 win at the United Center.
....And the Bulls' defense does not hold. Nuggets take the late lead. pic.twitter.com/28bgfpBT6a— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) November 1, 2018
This was a pretty rough loss to take, the Bulls played actually kinda well and had late leads in regulation as well as overtime. Sure, they somewhat choked them, but: they earned their way out in front in the first place, damnit!
It was genuinely intriguing heading into this game how the team would look after the shellacking they took at the hands of the Warriors. If they were flat again, you could continue the rumblings about Hoiberg’s job...
"Tonight it's about about coming out with an edge, coming out with some grit, hopefully giving ourselves a chance early in the game" - Coach Hoiberg— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 31, 2018
But after that game, even in a loss...
Fred Hoiberg: “The guys played with unbelievable effort.”— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 1, 2018
I agree with coach candycorn! And we got to see some precious ‘development’, as Wendell Carter Jr. was pretty much outstanding. Not sure if it was the gameplan or his own personal motivation, but Carter came out the gates very aggressively, shooting 4/10 in his opening stint on the floor. The efficiency rose as the game went on, with Carter scoring on duck-ins, at the line, and hitting 2 threes to wind up with an (extremely early) career-high 25 points on 9-21 shooting.
And Carter showed to be a 2-way player, something extremely rare on this roster. Carter was providing rim protection in making Millsap look old, and very good matchup defense when assigned against Nuggets leader Nikola Jokic. Jokic was doing some damage, especially in assists, but Carter was clearly hindering his inside finishing and outright frustrating him on that end of the floor. Jokic had 7 turnovers in this game, and it was mostly due to the great performance from Carter.
Behind Carter, the Bulls defense was not the trainwreck it usually is, and though when the bench came in that D got fairly disastrous again (Cristiano Felicio was especially terrible tonight), the Bulls made up for it by shooting extremely well from three. Antonio Blakeney was 4-4 from beyond the arc, Holiday (played 39 minutes and was usually the only starter with these bench units) was 5-9, and Chandler Hutchison even hit one as part of his 8 point first stint that kept the Bulls afloat in the second half. If these threes don’t drop, maybe the transition defense doesn’t look so good, but for tonight they were good enough to keep themselves close and there weren’t too many embarrassing possessions to put up on Twitter (there were a few, just not, like fifteen).
Meanwhile, the Nuggets were 7-26 from three. But Jokic hit two of them in OT that put them in position to get the win at the last second. It was fitting that it ended on a put-back, as the Bulls were absolutely pounded on the offensive glass, giving up a 34% offensive rebound rate. Hoiberg started Jabari Parker in part because he was simply bigger than Hutchison, and even Holiday got a significant time defending in the frontcourt. They were bad options, and the whole team is full of bad options: special shout-out to the point guard play being abysmal (Payne especially, at least Arrivederci had three steals).
So with that in mind, it’s notable when guys like Carter and LaVine (it was a quiet 28 points, but he grabbed the Bulls the lead midway through the fourth even if he couldn’t hit the final-minute shots) put in good games. And as a whole the Bulls didn’t lay a total pumpkin in their home, at least.