After erasing a 19-point deficit, it looked like the Bulls were going to pull off yet another clutch win against the Blazers when Zach LaVine buried what seemed to be a dagger 3-pointer from basically the same spot as the one he hit against them earlier this season. It gave Chicago a five-point lead with 32.1 seconds left, and it was still five with 11.5 seconds left after Coby White answered a Robert Covington layup with a pair of free throws.
Then it was Dame Time:
Damian Lillard’s final six points gave him a game-high 44 points and the Bulls a heartbreaking 123-122 defeat, dropping them to 7-11 at the quarter mark of the season.
Lillard’s game-winner was set up by a questionable jump-ball call:
It was a pretty quick whistle and there was contact, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Last Two Minute Report states that this was an incorrect call. It would be the second time this season the Bulls were screwed in the final seconds of a game like this (Warriors), but as LaVine said afterward, they still shouldn’t have lost:
Zach LaVine: “I didn’t think it was a jump ball. I didn’t think they had their hands on it.”— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 31, 2021
LaVine added even with that, a team shouldn’t lose 5-point lead with 11 seconds left.
And, honestly, I’m also just going to tip my cap to Lillard for hitting ridiculous shots.
The stunning finish ruined the Bulls’ huge comeback and efficient scoring games from both LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. While LaVine did have six turnovers (15 Bulls turnovers led to 26 Blazers points), he did put up 26 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3. Markkanen poured in a season-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting and 6-of-11 from long distance. Both guys hit huge shots throughout the second half as Chicago came back, and they combined for 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the fourth quarter. Markkanen even had a few nice defensive plays against Dame during crunch time.
Markkanen was set up twice late by Thaddeus Young, who continues to be a revelation as a playmaker. The veteran again fell just shy of a triple-double with 8/11/11, and he was also a plus-13 off the bench. Garrett Temple was a plus-18 off the pine as these two veterans once again made up for another brutal showing by the starting unit. Daniel Gafford played only 10 minutes and was a minus-15 in that time on the court. I’m not sure how much longer Billy Donovan can keep trotting Gafford out there with the starters, even with Wendell Carter Jr. out. Billy D surely likes bringing Young off the bench, but it might be time to start him to avoid these holes the starters keep digging.
Coby White broke out of his shooting slump with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 3-of-6 on 3-pointers, but he was quiet in the second half (four points) and the Bulls were outscored by 17 in his 34 minutes of action.
This was certainly a game of runs. After a sluggish start, the Bulls caught fire and were cruising along up eight early in the second quarter. The Blazers then went on a 28-6 run to take a 14-point lead before a White triple made it 64-53 at the break.
Portland quickly made it a 19-point advantage early in the third quarter. It was still a 16-point deficit for Chicago late in the third quarter when the game flipped. The Bulls couldn’t miss all of a sudden, and they regained the lead on a Tomas Satoransky triple with just under eight minutes left in the game. The Blazers took a 111-107 lead with 5:32 to play but then only scored two points until the final minute when they exploded to stun the home team.
The Bulls lost despite shooting 50.6% from the field, 21-of-45 from 3 and 15-of-15 on free throws. The Blazers also shot over 50% overall (51.1%) and 40% from 3 (17-of-42).
The Bulls next face two home games against old friend Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks.