The Bulls just finished their four-game foray out on the West Coast on a three-game losing streak after their thrilling win over the Blazers started the trip, but it’s hard not to feel good how they competed throughout despite being shorthanded. While they couldn’t close any of the last three games, the fact that they were in them down to the wire — especially the Los Angeles games — was encouraging.
The Bulls wrapped up the trip with a Sunday matinee against the Clippers, and the road team didn’t have Otto Porter Jr. in this game because of lingering back issues. In normal times, a Sunday afternoon game in Los Angeles is ripe for ugliness. Instead, we were treated to an absolutely ridiculous display of shotmaking from both teams. Unfortunately, the Bulls fell just one shot short in a 130-127 loss.
It was the Zach LaVine show yet again, as he poured in a season-high 45 points on 15-of-26 shooting overall and 10-of-16 from deep to go along with seven assists and seven rebounds. When it looked like the Bulls were dead in the water down seven points in the final minute, he quickly scored six straight to make things interesting again, including an extremely difficult step-back 3-pointer for his 10th trey. It was starting to feel like the Hornets miracle last season, but after two Paul George free throws, LaVine got nothing but air on his game-tying 3-point attempt and that was that.
Earlier, LaVine and Kawhi Leonard engaged in an epic duel in the third quarter, with Leonard erupting for 21 of his team-high 35 points on 8-of-9 shooting and 5-of-5 from 3 and LaVine going for 15 points on 5-of-8 from deep. The Clippers scored 42 points in the frame to tie the game up after the Bulls actually controlled the first half.
Chicago led by as much as 13 early in the second quarter before LA woke up and found its groove offensively, but it was still a seven-point lead at the break. In addition to LaVine, Patrick Williams stood out with 11 first-half points and three triples. Williams finished with a new career high of 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3.
Even after the Clippers delivered their third-quarter haymaker, the Bulls never gave in. There were several points where it looked like LA might pull away in the fourth, but Chicago had answers for just about every run. The Bulls even regained the lead with just over three minutes to play after going down six earlier in the frame, courtesy of a Garrett Temple and-1, but Nicolas Batum responded with a 4-point play. The Clippers never trailed again, with a few LaVine misses and Bulls turnovers helping LA build a little separation before Zach’s last gasp. Lou Williams scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls lost despite shooting 61.0% from the field and 18-of-33 on 3-pointers. The Clippers shot 48.9% overall and 20-of-38 from 3-land themselves, but they also had a 15-shot advantage in field goal attempts due to 23 Bulls turnovers (LA scored 31 points off those turnovers) and 12 offensive rebounds (22 second chance points. It’s the first time since 1984 the Bulls lost a game in which they shot 60%.
In addition to LaVine and Williams, Temple and fellow Bulls veteran Thaddeus Young scorched the nets. The duo combined for 32 points on 13-of-15 shooting, with Temple again consistently delivering timely baskets en route to 18 points. This has been a thing all season with him, and it’s just one reason why he has been closing games. Young once again closed at center.
Coby White struggled with his shot (4-of-11 shooting and 0-of-4 from 3) and had five turnovers (including one real bad one late in the fourth), but he flirted with a triple-double by handing a career-high 13 assists and grabbing eight rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. (12) and Denzel Valentine (10) were the other two Bulls in double figures.
Again, while the Bulls went 1-3 on this road trip to fall to 4-7 on the season, I like how they’re playing. The turnovers continue to be an issue and the defense stinks, but the offense is making its way up the ranks. They’re now up to 13th in offensive rating after this game and sixth in true shooting percentage. If they can clean up the turnovers, the offense should be even better, even if this trip did feature some unsustainably hot shooting.
Chicago now heads back home to face a depleted Celtics team on Tuesday due to COVID-19 protocols. The Bulls could be getting some of their own guys back from COVID-19 protocols.