With barely under a minute to play in the Bulls latest game, Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed an offensive rebound from a Zach LaVine miss and dished it out to Otto Porter Jr. in the corner. Porter Jr. loaded up and splashed the three, giving the Chicago Bulls a 126-121 lead. They were in prime position to get their first win of the season.
But their opponents, the Golden State Warriors, had other ideas. They went on an 8-2 run to close the game and walked out of the United Center with a 129-128 victory.
It wasn’t a bad effort by the Bulls as all of their young players played well but some crucial mistakes at the end turned out to be their downfall. Here’s how Chicago let their late lead slip away in the closing seconds.
After the Porter three, the Bulls quickly gave up a bucket to Steph Curry with Carter fouling Curry on the drive (WCJ did a good job of getting vertical, but his hands weren’t up). Billy Donovan wound up burning a timeout after losing a challenge on the call. So after the FT make by Curry, Chicago was only up to two and with only one timeout remaining for the final 46 seconds.
With Lauri Markkanen not playing for the final 3:22 after a calf injury, the offensive burden fell completely on Zach LaVine. He was taking the majority of the shots in this time and always had the ball in his hands. This possession was no different. He took advantage of a scrambling Warriors defense and got to the rim, but Kevon Looney rotated over at the last second and altered his shot.
On the next Warriors possession, Andrew Wiggins got into the lane and was met there by Carter, who again did a great job of staying vertical and this time kept his hands straight up. The Bulls could have sealed the game with a rebound, but it never came as both Wiggins and Looney got multiple chances at the rim after getting that loose ball.
You can see after Wiggins misses his initial shot that there are three Bulls in the paint and none of them are boxing out or going for the ball.
The Bulls still had a chance to win the game as with 16 seconds left, they were in prime position to take the final shot. Once again the ball was put in LaVine’s hands and was guarded by Kelly Oubre Jr. near the half-court line.
Above, you can see the play design worked as it forced the Warriors to do what the Bulls wanted with Golden State switching Juan Toscano-Anderson on LaVine. As he got below the free-throw line, LaVine drove into his man and felt the contact. He then stops on a dime and fires up a jump shot from nine feet. It wasn’t the best shot Chicago could have taken but in that exact situation, LaVine did well to get up a decent effort that wasn’t either off-balance or a fadeaway. The shot dropped in to give the Bulls what looked like the game-winning basket.
Unfortunately, while the plan and execution went well, the timing did not. LaVine took the shot before he had to, meaning instead of a win-or-overtime outcome, there was over 5 seconds left for the Warriors to run an inbounds play.
The Bulls plan on the next defensive possession was to prevent Curry from beating them. But he was able to get free after Looney set a screen on White at the top of the three-point arc. You can see that Curry is open for a quick second before Tomas Satoransky, who is guarding the inbound, shifts over to his right and cuts off the passing lane. That little move forces Damion Lee to throw the ball to Looney, who is still at the top of the three-point arc. It’s a give and go as Lee sprints towards the big man. Carter Jr. is at the free-throw line. His job is to help prevent shots at the rim or paint and doesn’t step up to Looney on the catch. While it does allow Golden State an easier way to start their sequence for the final shot it was better than stepping up and possibly allowing an open drive to the hoop.
Satoransky is a step behind Lee but does a good job of recovering as the Warriors guard takes a dribble to set himself up to take the game-winning shot. It’s a shot the Bulls were probably fine with giving up. A contested three-pointer that wasn’t from the hands of Curry. Credit has to be given to Lee in that he drilled the shot.
Again, Chicago didn’t play poorly. This was the first time since March 2017 that four Bulls scored more than 20 points in a single game. All of the young guys pitched in and played great but were plagued by turnovers offensively. Anytime they were on the verge of making it a double-digit lead, Chicago would have a bad turnover, leading to a basket for the Warriors. This was by far the best performance of the season from this young Bulls team. Sadly it wasn’t enough as a whirlwind final 40 seconds took away the win from them. Hopefully, this can be used as a learning experience for this team.