Although they shouldn’t have been, the Chicago Bulls found themselves in crunch time against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a wacky game where Chicago saw a 16-point lead evaporate and had to make some clutch plays down the stretch to stave off losing to a team with the worst record in the NBA. Much of it was due to Jabari Parker, who came up big when Chicago needed him the most.
Overall, it was a typical game for Parker, he scored only 13 points on 5 of 13 shooting with 5 rebounds. However with 4:43 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Parker entered the game for Robin Lopez and immediately made an impact. He proceeded to make Chicago’s next two baskets with a hook shot and a step back jumper which kept Chicago’s lead at 4. Parker then got fouled with 1:45 left and split a pair of free throws to give the Bulls a 5-point lead. Although it would be the end of Parker’s offensive contributions, his biggest play would come on the defensive end.
After a really bad turnover by Zach LaVine, which he passed the ball off Wendell Carter Jr.’s foot, the Bulls handed the Cavaliers a chance to take the lead with 13 seconds left in the game. In a surprising move, Fred Hoiberg decided to take out Carter Jr. in favor for Parker. We have seen this movie before as Hoiberg did this in the home opener against Detroit. In that game, the Pistons recognized Parker was on the floor, isolated him one on one, and scored the game-winning bucket.
If was definitely a questionable decision for Parker to be on the floor, but he came through:
The entire possession for the Cavaliers was all Colin Sexton. Standing at the top of the key, he decided to take Ryan Arcidiacono one on one. Sexton moved to his right and then switched directions and drove left towards the hoop on Arcidiacono. Arch did a great job on not fouling or swiping for the ball when Sexton was going up for the layup. Instead, he just put both of his hands straight up and forced Sexton to finish over him. Sexton also went a little too far away from the hoop on the initial layup attempt. It caused him to fade away as he was pushing the ball towards the hoop and it hit the front end of the rim. Now as Sexton was driving to the basket there were multiple Bulls crashing towards the hoop. One of them was Parker and just so happened that the ball went straight towards him. It went right over Rodney Hood and into the hands of Parker, except he didn’t catch it. The ball slipped off of Parker’s hands and right into the hands of Sexton, who was looking for another chance to pounce.
As soon as Sexton got the ball, there were 0.04 seconds left on the clock and he had to put up a shot fast. He quickly grabbed the rebound and immediately went straight up. Parker, who landed right in front of the basket, was waiting for the ball. He rose up with the rook and swatted the layup attempt as time expired. It was a defensive sequence from Parker which we haven’t seen at all this season. He was locked in and engaged the entire time. Even though he made the mistake of losing the ball on the initial rebound, he certainly made up for it.
Parker scored 5 of Chicago’s last 7 points and helped drag them across the finish line. Like Jason pointed out in the recap, it was another frustrating night from Parker as he flashed his ability to be a really good player in midst of another meh performance. He has played decently in the past couple of games offensively but it doesn’t mean much if he’s leaking points on the defensive end. This sequence against Cleveland was a bright spot but nobody knows if it will carry over into the next game.