The Bulls looked absolutely dead in the water against a shorthanded Wizards team after a Wendell Carter Jr. flagrant foul with 8:21 to go in the fourth quarter. Anzejs Pasecniks split the free throws to put the Wizards up 18 points, and it seemed like the home team was going to cruise to victory.
Instead, it was the Bulls’ turn to pull off a miracle comeback after their epic collapse against the Thunder on Monday night. Pasecniks promptly traveled on the ensuing possession, and the Bulls then finished the fourth quarter on a 23-5 run to send the game to overtime, where they pulled out a 110-109 victory courtesy of Zach LaVine finding Wendell Carter Jr. with a nice dish:
WCJ REVERSE LAYUP FOR THE LEAD WITH 9.1 SECONDS LEFT! pic.twitter.com/qiChtSK1N8— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 19, 2019
It was the second straight smart LaVine play to finish the game, as he found Carter on a pick-and-roll play the possession before with the Bulls down three points, resulting in a pair of WCJ free throws (after the Wizards were called for a lane violation on a miss). The Bulls secured the win once Bradley Beal capped off a crapper of a performance with a pair of misses. The first was blocked by Carter out of bounds, and the second was a good look in the paint that fell short, dropping Beal to a 4-of-19 shooting effort.
It had looked like Beal was going to be the hero at the end of regulation. The Bulls had tied the game at 96-96 on three LaVine free throws thanks to a boneheaded foul by Davis Bertans, but Beal finally shook free of Kris Dunn and buried a mid-range jumper with 0.5 seconds left. It ended a near-five-minute scoring drought for the Wizards, who ran some of the ugliest offense crunch-time offense you’ll ever see. The Bulls deserve credit for ramping up the intensity on defense, but the Wizards were basically just winding down the clock every possession and then chucking something at the rim with little prayer of going in, or they were turning the ball over.
While it looked like the comeback was going to be all for naught thanks to Beal’s bucket, the Wizards went full Wizard again, with Isaac Bonga fouling LaVine on the inbounds pass as the Bulls tried to throw a lob. LaVine calmly buried both free throws to send the game to OT.
LaVine had a real rough shooting game (6-of-23 overall, 1-of-8 from 3), but he still managed 24 points thanks to going 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. While his decision-making for much of the night left a lot to be desired, it was nice to see him make the right decisions on the final couple of possessions to help get the win instead of forcing up hero shots (even if those sometimes go in).
The main star of the night for the Bulls was Lauri Markkanen, who poured in 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting overall and 5-of-10 from deep. Not only was he canning his jumpers, but he was aggressive going to the rim and finishing. He was also a game-best plus-17. I thought he should have gone back in the game sooner in the fourth quarter when it looked like the Bulls were letting go of the rope and Thaddeus Young was really struggling (1-of-10 shooting), but luckily the Wizards made sure that wasn’t the case.
Dunn and Tomas Satoransky were the only other Bulls with notable nights. Dunn started hot offensively and finished with 15/5/5 before fouling out in OT, and he also helped make Beal’s life miserable. Satoransky had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and he made two big 3-pointers in overtime in a nice little revenge game for him.
The Bulls certainly didn’t play well in this game. They shot 40.2% overall and 11-of-37 on 3-pointers. They turned the ball over 15 times. The bench was awful. There were some truly embarrassing stretches for both teams, and it looked like the Bulls were going to get run out of the gym at that one point in the fourth quarter. I don’t want to call this a lucky win, because the Bulls do deserve credit for not mailing it in and picking up the intensity late, but they were certainly fortunate to pull this one out given the Wizards shot 5-of-21 from the field in the fourth quarter, turned it over seven times and committed multiple stupid fouls. This Bulls team continues to just meander along while playing absolutely batshit crazy games.
A win is a win, though, and the Bulls will try to build on it when they head to Detroit to face the Pistons on Saturday.