For the third time in three games on this West Coast road trip, the Chicago Bulls had a chance to win in the final minutes. This time it was against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, who were without Anthony Davis.
However, just like in Sacramento, the Bulls failed to execute in the final seconds. Zach LaVine, who was brilliant all game, led the way with 38 points but missed the game-winning shot as Chicago suffered a tough 117-115 loss. Wendell Carter Jr. also pitched in with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Thad Young had 15 off the bench. Also, shoutout to Patrick Williams for his four steals and admirable defense against LeBron James.
The first quarter belonged to LaVine. He was on fire to start the game, hitting his first eight shots and scoring 19 points in the quarter alone. LaVine was finding open looks from all over the court. He hit two 3-pointers and had a lot of open looks near the rim as well. However, Chicago’s defense struggled to stop the Lakers from keeping pace offensively. LeBron led the way with eight points, and a buzzer-beater from Talen-Horton Tucker cut the lead to 33-28 at the end of the first quarter.
Coby White decided that it was his turn to get hot from the field at the start of the second quarter. He scored the first 10 points of the quarter for Chicago, hitting a couple of heat-check 3-pointers in the process to push the lead to double digits:
COBY WHITE HEAT CHECK. Even clapped for it pic.twitter.com/xV6eVXlLuk— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 9, 2021
However, the Lakers responded with a 10-2 run and got right back in the game.
LA made defensive adjustments midway through the second quarter and started to double LaVine whenever they had the chance. This was smart as it took the ball out of his hands and forced the other Bulls to make shots off the catch. The Bulls’ big men responded, as Young scored a couple of hook shots and Carter had a nice roll to the rim for a layup.
Chicago the lead until the final seconds of the half when a Kyle Kuzma 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 59-58 lead. The Bulls had an effective field goal percentage of 58.2 in the first half, while the Lakers weren’t far behind at 57 percent.
LaVine and White led the way with 21 and 12 points, respectively, while LeBron had 12 for LA. Horton-Tucker and Dennis Schroder had 9 each. The Lakers got solid contributions from their bench, with 26 points from their reserves in the first half.
It was peculiar to see Otto Porter Jr. play only six minutes in the first half, but as Bulls PR announced during halftime, he had back spasms and subsequently was ruled out for the second half.
Chicago continued the trend of starting every quarter on fire offensively. The Bulls hit five of their first six shots and turned a deficit into a six-point lead within the first two minutes of the third. Carter scored the first six points for Chicago by finding open pockets of space on the court against his matchup in Marc Gasol.
But the Bulls still couldn’t stop LA from scoring. It felt that the moment Chicago’s shot stopped falling, the Lakers were going to make a run. Wesley Matthews found his shot in the third quarter. He made four 3-pointers in a row as LA went on a 14-2 run to take a seven-point lead with four minutes left in the quarter. With the Bulls hyper-focused on stopping LeBron (as they should be), they collapsed in on him anytime he was in the lane. This left Lakers shooters open on the perimeter, and Matthews specifically took advantage.
The Bulls continued to battle despite the run. They even got contributions from Adam Mokoka, who got second-half minutes with Porter out with an injury and Chicago still shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols. Mokoka played good defense and even hit a 3 in the corner. The Bulls tied the game with 1:57 left, but LA came back with four quick points to take the lead into the final quarter, 92-88.
The fourth began with Chicago trotting out a lineup of White with four reserve players. It didn’t go so well. Montrezl Harrell took advantage of Daniel Gafford’s eagerness on defense, getting him to go for pump fakes and driving right by him. LA went on a 10-2 run to start the quarter, prompting Billy Donovan to call a timeout. It seemed to spark the Bulls, as they responded with a 7-0 run and got the deficit back down to five.
LaVine continued to shoulder the offensive burden, finding different ways to attack the Lakers. He was drawing fouls in transition and cutting into the lane for a layup after giving an entry pass into the post. Chicago began to put real pressure on LA after a 3 by Garrett Temple and a flip shot by Young cut the lead to two with 1:32 to play.
The Bulls got an opportunity to take the lead when a rare miss by LeBron at the rim put the ball in LaVine’s hands, but he missed the fadeaway jumper. The Lakers again put the ball in James’ hands, and this time he didn’t miss when he went to the hoop, barreling through Williams for an and-1 (he missed the free throw). Temple then made an insanely tough fadeaway triple in the corner, similar to the one Tyrese Haliburton made against Chicago on Wednesday.
After a long missed 3 by LeBron, the Bulls had a chance to win the game with 12.1 seconds left. The ball was in LaVine’s hands as expected, and he went early with his shot attempt, shooting a mid-range jumper against Harrell. The ball clanked off the side of the rim, off the hands of Williams, off Temple’s hands and out of bounds, capping off an unfortunate sequence of events.
On the ensuing inbound, Schroder caught the ball and ran away from Temple in the backcourt. It was a shrewd move as it burned four seconds off the clock before Chicago could foul, leaving just 0.5 seconds left on the clock. Schroder missed his second free-throw attempt as the final buzzer sounded.
The Bulls are now 4-6 with their next game coming up against the Clippers on Sunday afternoon, with tip-off coming right before the Bears start their playoff game against the Saints.