The latest trend of Bulls performances it them getting out to a lead in the first half, and they switch off at halftime and the opposing team has their way in the 3rd quarter. It happened against Detroit in their back to back losses along with the Lakers dropping 43 in that frame on Tuesday. The third quarter boogeyman is a real thing for Chicago and it reared its ugly head on Friday against the Clippers in a 128-121 loss.
The Bulls were playing quite well in the first half. Zach LaVine was balling out after being out the past couple of games and Chicago found itself being up 6 on one of the playoff teams in the Western Conference. But suddenly things took a turn for the worst in the 3rd quarter. Thanks to a huge 15-4 run sandwiched in the middle of the quarter over the span of Los Angeles outscored Chicago 45-21 in the third. There was a stretch where the Bulls scored a mere four points in five minutes, allowing LA back into the game. The Clippers took the lead and never looked back.
Like Blake Griffin for Detroit, it was Danilo Galinari who was the offensive catalyst. He went 10 of 14 from the field, scoring 12 of his 27 points in the third alone. He was getting any shot he wanted and found success exploiting some matchup issues the Bulls had against him.
(1:01 - 1:11) Gallinari starts out this possession with the ball near the Clippers bench and swings it to Ivica Zubac at the top of the three-point line. The ball is then moved to Patrick Beverley and the set begins to take place. When Beverely gets the ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is at the corner of the free throw line right in front of Gallinari. It looks like it’s going to be a play where Gallinari swings all the way down around the basket and to the corner for a three-point shot. However when Gallinari runs towards SGA, he quickly turns and runs around Zubac, using both players as a screener. Lauri Markkanen, who was guarding Gallinari, sagged off before the action began and was caught off guard when the picks arrived. Markkanen was able to push off SGA but was met right in the chest by Zubac, leaving him no chance to contest or even defend Gallinari. With Kris Dunn and Robin Lopez in the paint, there was no Bull around to even put a hand in Gallinari’s face as he splashed a three-pointer to give LA the lead.
(1:39 - 1:48) Here on this play, Gallinari is able to take advantage of Chicago’s transition defense to get an easy three-point play. Montrezl Harrell is the player who has the ball as the Clippers are moving into the front court. Chicago had all their guys back in transition so it wasn’t the case of anyone falling asleep and it leading to any easy layup. It was a case of matchups. Robin Lopez, the only big man on the floor for Chicago, was already occupied with Harrell and making sure that he didn’t have an open lane to the basket. This made for some tough assignments for the rest of the Bulls players, particularly LaVine. When Harrell stopped near the three-point line, Gallinari was already in the paint. By the time he reached the dotted circle, he boxed out LaVine and everyone knew where the ball was going. LaVine had no chance guarding Gallo as he was moved off the ball when they got to the restricted area. Harrell tossed the ball into the paint to Gallinari and the Bulls were in scramble mode. Lopez crashed down to help out LaVine as both contested the layup attempt. There was nothing they could do as Gallinari’s shot went in along with the foul.
The Bulls had a certainly competitive February, but now there’s another worrying trend. The third quarter starts and the energy which was there in the first half disappeared. Hopefully the Bulls can shake off these third quarter woes as they continue their west coast road trip.