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Bulls vs. Clippers recap: Competitive but collapsing late, that’s an improvement in Bulls losses!

19 pt fourth clutched defeat from the jaws of victory

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

We were at a low point of the season, or at least one of the lower points, as the Bulls kept getting blown out even after being home and playing far-from-elite teams, and the coach taking no responsibility for it. So Friday night was a relative success: the Bulls were competitive, and even had a double-digit lead at one time. They still lost, 106-101 after a collapse in the final minutes, but it was relatively enjoyable compared to the last few weeks.

Starting Bobby Portis at center for the first time in 3 games, the Bulls did not come out with ‘an edge’ or whatever, they instead fell in an early hole starting the game going 4-18 from the field with no makes outside the rim. The Clippers weren’t great themselves, but they had one guy in Tobias Harris (guarded by Portis) with 3 three-pointers and that was enough to begin the game.

But unlike past games where the Bulls found themselves down early, the bench came in and had a very nice run. Jabari Parker continued his hot 3-point shooting as of late to hit one to begin his stint, and wound up playing nearly 13 minutes in the half and put up 12 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block.

As you can see the Bulls were running on transition opportunities here, and that Arcidiacono three capped off a sequence where Hutchison and Dunn hit triples as well.

The Bulls were extremely aggressive on defense in this game, trapping out beyond the three-point line, doubling the post, and outright gambling a lot. Unlike the prior game in Atlanta where they were carved up doing this, the Clippers were not able to truly capitalize and instead were disrupted into turnovers on over 14% of their possessions an the Bulls had 21 fast-break points. This combined with the Bulls dominating both sides of the rebounding battle meant that they got twenty more field-goal attempts than the Clippers here. The Clips made up for it a bit by doing what they do best which is getting to the FT line, going 22-29 from the stripe.

While the lead was only 2 going into halftime, the Bulls had a nice 3rd quarter run as well with - gasp - Lauri Markkanen pick and pops leading to his own 3 point makes.

Unfortunately for Lauri - and Dunn, who had the assist here - that was the peak of their nights. Markkanen went 1-10 outside of that 3-point flurry, Dunn had a good floor game and was a major catalyst defensively (4 steals) but shot 4-14 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw.

It was a better night for Zach LaVine as he had 29 points on 10-20 from the field. But the team under-performed offensively with him on the court and he still had his awful moments on defense, so you had a game where the team was -11 with him on the court and -13 with Lauri out there.

That was undoubtedly hurt in the final minutes, where the Bulls only solid offense was some excellent shot-making from LaVine but then a 95-94 lead with 3:47 remaining turned into that 5 point loss.

The game swung majorly on this 4-point play from Lou Williams.

It was the many-time 6th man of the year’s only make of the 4th quarter, but he was 5-5 from the line for 8 points but more impressively 5 assists in the final period. His final one gave him a triple-double highlighted by 29 points.

Meanwhile the Bulls looked lost on both ends down the stretch. They had poor clock management with when and where to take shots, and were thrown way off balance on their defensive rotations. Boylen ran out of timeouts.

It likely deserves a more thorough breakdown but I’m setting an extremely low bar for the Boylen Bulls. They were not totally humiliated and sounding like dummies, so merely being unable to execute down the stretch is a relative success.