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The Bulls ‘grinded’ into a late-and-close game again versus the Nets, but then blew it

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When Chicago needed its offense the most, it wasn’t there in crunch time

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the final three minutes against the Brooklyn Nets, the Chicago Bulls were in the game. Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis were matching the output of the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie. Dunn gave Chicago a 93-91 lead with 3:02 left thanks to a driving layup. It seemed we were headed for a good ending at the United Center.

However, it would be the last point the Bulls scored in the game. Brooklyn took advantage of Chicago’s lack of offense and ended up squeaking out a 96-93 win.

The Bulls went in the tank down the stretch, missing all three of their shots along with three turnovers. They had numerous chances to take the lead but just couldn’t muster any solid offense.

It was made worse on the other end of the court in allowing the Nets to have a lot of cracks at the basket. There were multiple defense possessions for Chicago which were extended thanks to a Brooklyn offensive rebound. It especially came back to bite the Bulls with 46.1 seconds left and the score 93-92 Chicago, where this offensive board by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson allowed the Nets to call timeout and set up the following below:

Here we have Joe Harris, who was standing near the Nets bench, run around the three-point line towards Dinwiddie. Brooklyn also had both of their big men in RHJ and Jarrett Allen set screens on his man in Justin Holiday. This obviously slowed down Holiday, who was chasing Harris this entire possession. Both Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen saw what was happening and maintained their distance near the top of the paint. However Carter Jr. dropped a little too deep and when Harris caught the ball, he was a bit out of position. WCJ did a good job stepping up to meet Harris but since he had to run to get to the spot, his feet weren’t set. So when Harris pump faked WCJ jumped all the way up, letting the guard go right past him. Dunn, who was guarding the paint, rotated over to stop the drive. He actually did a really nice job of contesting the shot and even forced Harris to shoot a floater from just outside the low block. However, there was nothing the Bulls defense could do as the ball bounced off the backboard and in.

The next Bulls possession was a Dunn offensive foul and the Bulls needed another stop to stay in this one. They actually got it, partially gifted by Dinwiddie, as he dribbled way too deep in the clock and far-too-late pass ended things with a 24 second violation.

Then with 8.6 seconds left, the Bulls have a chance to make the game winning basket.

The possession starts out with Lauri Markkanen being the inbounder near the Bulls bench. There was really no actions as Justin Holiday was the one who ran up to get the ball. With Dunn being face guarded by Dinwiddie, it initially looked like the right move. Holiday didn’t make a clean catch and had to re-gather the ball near the edge of the Bulls logo with 7.6 left on the clock. He takes a dribble then stops and turns to look for Dunn. Now this should just be a routine dribble handoff between Holiday and Dunn but things take a turn for the worst. Dinwiddie does a good job of putting himself between the ball and Dunn, forcing Holiday to initially take the ball away as soon as the DHO is about to occur. Holiday then again tries to give the ball to Dunn, there’s just one big problem: Dinwiddie is still there. He has his hands in the passing lane and knocks the ball loose. It spills on the court and Hollis-Jefferson falls on it, calling timeout right after.

It was clear the Bulls wanted the ball in Dunn’s hands, and rightly so as he’d been their best player all night. But it came at the expense of any other plan, and Jim Boylen admitted as much post-game.

“We just tried to get the ball to Kris Dunn and he was going to take it and create something,” said Boylen. “He’s a guy that can do that, he’s done it before. He’s closed for us before. We didn’t execute it.”

The Bulls really had a chance to win this game but sloppy execution on both ends down the stretch ended up being their downfall. In a game where Chicago scored 12 points in the second quarter, it was fitting they ended up losing due to going ice cold offensively.

This is just another layer to the woes on offense the Bulls have had in their recent stretch of games. They aren’t pushing the pace anymore and have looked stagnant in finding open shots. So far in the Jim Boylen era, the Bulls have only scored over 100 points once, which was in the win against Oklahoma City. Their lack of fluidity on that side of the court showed once again late against Brooklyn.

Shaq Harrison was a positive

Shaq Harrison scored 13 points in his 26 minutes of action. With Zach LaVine’s injury, Harrison is bumped up in the rotation and getting more minutes to shine. His on-ball defense is great, and like Dunn, Harrison has shown he’s not afraid of getting in the face of the guy he’s guarding. He had 2 steals in this game.

It’s clear, though a complete non-shooter, that he’s one of the better backup guards Chicago has at the moment and should get more minutes even when Arcidiacono returns to the bench unit.