This was always going to be a tough game for the Chicago Bulls: On the road, against one of the best teams in the NBA, in a National TV game, and without Nikola Vucevic. And unfortunately those fears were justified as the Bulls suffered their worst loss of the season as Stephen Curry dropped 40 points in a 119-93 Warriors rout.
Zach LaVine scored a team-high 23, but also had seven turnovers as Chicago’s offense was smothered all night struggling to shoot efficiently from the field. The loss now drops the Bulls to 8-4 on the season.
Chicago got off to a solid start, going up by as much as ten in the first quarter. The majority of the offense came from LaVine, who had ten points by himself. The Bulls were able cause problems defensively for the majority of the quarter, forcing Golden State into five turnovers. Some of the Warrior miscues were self-forced as a couple of Warriors fast breaks were derailed due to an errant pass out of bounds. Chicago was looking like they would finish the quarter up double digits helped by Ayo Dosunmu’s back-to-back corner threes, but Golden State had other ideas. They went on a 9-3 run in two minutes to put a dent in the lead. A bucket by Derrick Jones Jr. made it a 29-23 Bulls lead at the end of one.
The second quarter is where the signs of the wheels falling off for Chicago first started to show. The offense really started to sputter with the Bulls scoring just 16 points in the period. Without Vucevic, Chicago’s spacing really got crunched and even when they had open looks they simply weren’t knocking them down. The turnovers hurt Chicago too, there was even a stretch when the Bulls lost the ball three times in the span of 40 seconds. The Warriors are simply too good of a team to make mistakes against and took advantage as expected. They took the lead with 7:18 left in the quarter and never looked back. The Bulls kept within striking distance but the Warriors had a late quarter flurry. Despite a Lonzo dunk at the end of half (after he missed his first seven shots from the field), it was the home team which had all of the momentum.
The Warriors are one of the best third quarter teams, and showed it here outscoring the Bulls 35-17 and ballooning their lead to 24. And as he is often capable of, Steph Curry can take over a game whenever he wants, here scoring 15 in the third quarter alone as he rained down shots from long range. Even when the Bulls stepped up to cut off that option, Curry dove straight to the hoop for easy layups. In response, the Bulls offense sputtered and with neither DeRozan (4-13 from the field) or Ball (2-11) shooting well, LaVine started forcing things and had five turnovers in the third quarter.
The Warriors finished the third on a 12-3 run to make it a 86-62 heading to the fourth, and the Bulls run never came. Each time the Bulls hit a shot which looked like it could slightly flip the momentum, Golden State responded with a bucket. Billy Donovan emptied out his bench for the last four minutes of the blowout loss.
The Bulls wound up shooting at just a 48.7 eFG% and only 8 three-point makes makes out of 26 attempts. They also had twenty turnovers, which Golden State converted into 24 points. Vucevic’s absence allowed the Warriors to close down on DeRozan and LaVine, forcing other guys to make shots off the dribble. You also don’t expect two of your better offensive starters to shoot a combined six of 24 every game so it’s fair to expect Chicago to bounce back in that regard.
But the bench scoring contributions weren’t there either: Caruso scored just four points and had five assists. (And like every other guard in the league, he had a tough time guarding Curry.) Alize grabbed seven rebounds but also missed a couple of easy shots near the rim. DJJ knocked down one three-pointer. Donsumu didn’t score after his two jumpers in the first quarter in his 16 minutes of action. It was notable that we even saw some Tyler Cook minutes early in the fourth, as Donovan was just seeing what type of big man depth he had on this team in Vuc’s absence.
These types of games happen. There are bound to be bad performances in a 82 game season and it’s very hard to beat Golden State at home. But there’s an immediate need to bounce back as without Vucevic for the near term they face the Clippers and Lakers in the coming days.