The Lakers entered Tuesday night’s game against the Bulls desperately needing a win. They had just been punked at home by the terrible Cavs, and the rumblings about Luke Walton’s job security have only gotten louder.
Luckily for the Lakers, the Bulls were just as terrible as they were in a god-awful first half, and then the home team finally came alive in the second half behind Lonzo Ball. The Bulls were effectively run out of the gym in the second half, only to stage an epic fake rally to make it a 107-100 final, which deprived Lakers fans of tacos and got Chicago either a backdoor cover or a push depending on what line you were looking at.
This game truly was an abomination through 24 minutes. The Lakers led 19-18 after one quarter and 44-43 at halftime as the Bulls shot 34 percent but stayed close thanks to 11 LA turnovers, leading to a shocking 13-5 Chicago advantage in fast-break points. The two teams combined to shoot 4-of-29 on 3-pointers in the half after going 0-of-18 outside of the paint in the first quarter.
Things finally started to pick up a bit in the third quarter, which is when Lonzo Ball really swung the game in the Lakers’ favor. He found his jumper by hitting three triples en route to 13 third-quarter points. The Bulls’ offense start to the third quarter was an embarrassing joke, with slow sets and awful late-clock shots galore before Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen finally forced the issue and got things rolling a bit. Those two combined for 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the third quarter to keep it an eight-point game going into the fourth.
The Bulls actually closed to within four points early in the fourth quarter on a nice hustle offensive rebound and dunk from Jabari Parker, who brought a lot of energy in his 17 minutes off the bench with 18 points, though a handful of those were during the fake rally at the end.
After that dunk, the Bulls completely fell apart. The offense went into the tank, and they lost Svi Mykhailiuk on multiple occasions for open 3-pointers. All of a sudden that four-point deficit was 18 thanks to a 14-0 run, and that was that.
Or so we thought.
With the score 98-81 and just under three minutes to play, Boylen called off the dogs and subbed in all his reserves. They promptly scored 17 points in about two minutes thanks mostly to Parker and Ryan Arcidiacono, who was flying all over the place in those last few minutes. It was honestly kind of fitting because it felt like the end of a college game when a team is desperately trying to come back, and the Lakers were giving the Bulls a glimmer of hope by being sloppy with the ball and turning it over on multiple occasions.
Things got really interesting for both bettors and Lakers fans as the game drew to a close. And right when it looked like the Lakers would pull off the cover and give their fans free tacos (holding opponents under 100 points in a win), Ivica Zubac fouled Shaq Harrison on a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left on an attempt that had no prayer of going in. Harrison made two of the free throws to get the Bulls to 100, and mercifully the game was over after that.
If you’re looking for any positives, Parker played with plenty of #spirit and helped his trade value. Chandler Hutchison had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and did excellent work in transition and with off-ball cuts.
The rest of it was basically trash outside of a few nifty LaVine/Lauri buckets. The Bulls’ young core was awful in their minutes together on the floor, with no cohesion or flow to their offense. LaVine had eight assists, but he had just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting and some mind-numbing turnovers. Kris Dunn played one of his worst games as a Bull by finishing with six points on 2-of-7 shooting, five turnovers and a minus-25, getting soundly outplayed by Ball, who had 19/8/6 and was plus-13. Dunn’s refusal to shoot from outside often derailed the offense, and his hesitation was extremely noticeable in this game. Bobby Portis also had a spectacularly atrocious game with two points on 1-of-11 shooting, with a bunch of those being wide-open looks.
The Bulls losing games is obviously what many fans are hoping for at this point, but the way their young core has been playing together lately has been really disheartening. Since that exciting Pacers game, these guys have had very few stretches of competent play as a group. It’s obviously going to take some time, but they really shouldn’t be this bad.
The Bulls have now lost eight games in a row (10-34 on the season) and finish off their West Coast trip against a damn good Nuggets team, and right now there’s little reason to expect that game to be close.