The Bulls put forth their first dud of the season on Friday night against the Warriors, and Sunday night they faced a Clippers team that entered on a seven-game winning streak. While the visiting Bulls blew an early 17-point lead and looked to be on the ropes in the second half, they buckled down on the defensive end and got big scoring games from DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine to earn a huge 100-90 victory.
DeRozan was truly outstanding in a homecoming game, going for 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 10-of-11 from the foul line after a couple of rough shooting nights. He said afterward it was his first game in Los Angeles since his father died:
DeMar DeRozan dropped 35 points tonight and said this was his first time playing in LA since his father died.— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) November 15, 2021
“He was at every game… tonight was one of those games that, I wish he was here”
DDR also piled up seven rebounds and five assists while being a plus-14. It was DeRozan who helped steady the ship after the Clippers fully erased that 17-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. He scored four points and assisted on a Tony Bradley bucket during a quick surge to get the Bulls back up five, and then LaVine buried a 3-pointer after an Alex Caruso steal to make it 86-78 with 8:08 to play.
Minutes later, after the Clippers had cut the margin back down to four points on a Reggie Jackson triple, DeRozan buried an and-1 jumper to open up more breathing room again. LaVine then shut the door in the final minutes with his sixth 3-pointer of the night and then a really tough fadeaway jumper that was almost his seventh trey:
LaVine’s decision-making was questionable at times in this one, but he scored 29 points on 11-of-27 shooting and went 6-of-13 from long distance.
The Bulls did dodge some bullets late and all night really as the Clippers struggled with their shooting to the tune of 35.8% overall and 11-of-34 from 3 on the second night of a back-to-back. Paul George shot just 7-of-25 (he did go 11-of-11 from the line) and Jackson was 4-of-17, but Chicago deserves credit for defending those guys well. Caruso and Lonzo Ball had awful shooting nights (combined 6-of-25), but their pressure defense (three steals apiece) played a big factor in this win. The Bulls scored 25 points off 20 Clippers turnovers.
Turnovers were the name of the game in a big first quarter for the Bulls. Billy Donovan went to Caruso in the starting lineup over Javonte Green, and the gambit worked as part of a strong start. Chicago scored 14 points off 10 LA turnovers in the opening frame, with DeRozan going to work immediately with 12 first-quarter points en route to a 30-17 advantage.
That lead ballooned to 34-17 early in the second quarter before the Clippers started to reel the Bulls back in. Free throws helped the Clippers stay in the game despite an awful shooting start, but it was still a 54-45 Bulls lead at halftime as DeRozan racked up 21 points.
LaVine started to get going in the third quarter after a sluggish first half, but Eric Bledsoe had some big answers. The Bulls got their lead back out to 11 on multiple occasions, but the latter half of the frame saw them get really sloppy. Ball had a number of ugly offensive plays, and the Clippers started aggressively doubling DeRozan after his big first half. Some crucial Green plays at the end of the quarter helped stem the tide, and it was 77-71 at the end of three.
The start of the fourth quarter was really ugly, with the Clippers’ hard traps of DeRozan causing major problems. With LaVine out of the game, nobody was able to make LA pay for those traps, leading to a 7-0 Clippers run. Donovan went back to LaVine immediately after LA took the lead, and the Bulls were able to pull the game out as both teams went super small down the stretch (guess you could say Green closed at the 5).
Donovan went small in all the non-Tony Bradley minutes (he played 24 minutes), with Derrick Jones Jr. initially playing backup 5. Troy Brown Jr. was the ninth man in the rotation for this game. Green was actually the high scorer off the bench with nine points out of 15 total, and it will be a welcome sight to get Coby White back for Monday’s game against the Lakers. While the Bulls are an impressive 9-4 to start the season, the lack of scoring punch off the bench has been painfully obvious at times, including in this game when DeRozan was getting trapped and nobody was able to step up. They’ve made up for it with defense, but having another weapon to bring off the bench will be nice, especially with Nikola Vucevic out for the time being.
All in all, this is a fantastic Bulls win coming off the worst loss of the season. It was great to see them get off to such a great start, and they showed a ton of resilience with their response late in the game after blowing the big lead. Monday night’s game against the Lakers should be fun given some of the former Lakers on the team and the fact that it’s another DeRozan homecoming game. Plus, it could be the return of LeBron James.