In a game they needed to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Chicago Bulls couldn’t keep pace at home with the Brooklyn Nets in a 115-107 loss. The visitors led by double digits for most of it with a late rally by the Bulls being reason why it ended as only a single digit margin. This loss snaps Chicago’s three-game winning streak. The defeat also means they have to win the rest of their regular season and hope the Washington Wizards lose out as its the only scenario where the Bulls can make the play-in.
Zach LaVine did all that he could for the Bulls tonight, scoring 41 points on 15 of 27 shooting while knocking down six three’s. However, the rest of the team struggled to score as Chicago only shot 40.6 percent from the field as a unit. Meanwhile for the Nets, they got 21 points from Kevin Durant with all of their starters scoring in double digits.
The Nets came out of the gates hot and built up an 18-7 within the first four minutes of the game, quickly prompting a timeout from Billy Donovan. It was the LaVine show for much of the night for the Bulls offense, especially in the first quarter. He scored 10 points in the frame to keep the Bulls within striking distance. Meanwhile on the other side, it was Kyrie Irving who was main bucket getter for Brooklyn in the first. He countered LaVine’s output with 13 points and a handful of assists, including a dime to Jeff Green with 24.6 seconds left in the quarter to make it a 32-23 game after one.
Brooklyn got off to a great start in the second quarter as well, expanding their lead back to double digits. Bruce Brown, who had a double double of 15 points and 10 rebounds on the night, was active in the second with six points early on. The Bulls did enough offensively in the quarter to keep the game within striking distance. However, they couldn’t keep the Nets from scoring as Brooklyn kept generating easy baskets. Steve Nash countered Billy Donovan’s three-big lineup by going small ball during stretches of the game and that was when Brooklyn really started cooking on offense. It was already hard for Chicago to stop the likes of Durant and Irving offensively but when there are other mismatches on the floor it becomes even tougher. Thanks to a Coby White three before the half, Chicago was only down 13 with a score of 64-51.
The first eight minutes of the game went the same way as previous quarters: Brooklyn starting off well then Chicago battling to keep the deficit from getting out of hand. But things took a turn for the worst after LaVine made it a 85-73 game. The Nets then went on a 8-1 run to finish the quarter, expanding their lead to 19 heading into the fourth.
The run by Brooklyn was aided by turnovers as Chicago lost the ball three times during that stretch. As the game entered the final quarter, it didn’t look like it the Bulls would anything of it. Brooklyn was able to keep keep Chicago at distance, pushing their lead to as much as 18. But the Bulls made a late surge in the final minutes to make this game interesting and it was all due to LaVine. He kept attacking the Brooklyn defense and slowly started chipping away at the lead. LaVine scored 13 in the quarter and combined with some cold shooting from Brooklyn, the Bulls were able to make it a six point game with 1:39 left. But once again, Chicago’s defense couldn’t get a stop as Brooklyn responded as Green scored from an assist by Durant to push the lead back to eight with 1:22 left, essentially sealing the game. The Nets hit their free throws and the final seconds ran out as Chicago’s late rally fell short.
Outside of LaVine, no other Bull scored more than 17 points individually. It was a rare off-night for Nikola Vucevic as he scored just 12 points, going five of 18 from the field. However, he still made his presence felt on the glass with 12 rebounds, notching another double double. Coby White scored 16 on six of 17 shooting from the field while Daniel Theis had 10 points and six rebonds, hitting his two three-pointers in the process. Patrick Williams again struggled on offense, scoring just five points. He only recorded one rebound and took only two field goal attempts all game.
Meanwhile for the bench, Thad Young had an off-night as well, only scoring four points with nine rebounds. Lauri Markkanen was the main scorer among the reserves with 11 points and went three of seven from downtown. Garrett Temple scored seven but the real surprise was that Tomas Satoransky only notched 11 minutes in this game. He recorded just one point and two rebounds. Javonte Green played but only for a short time of just three minutes.
Irving left the game early due to injury after getting hitting the head during the third quarter. He finished with 13 points and five assists. Joe Harris wasn’t at his usual best from three, going two of seven from deep, but still scored 17.
Brooklyn got a huge contribution from their bench as they got 36 points from their reserves. Nic Claxton had a double double of 10 points and 10 rebounds while Green had 14 of his own. Mike James was all over the stat sheet with 11 points, six assists, and seven rebounds.
Combined with the win by Indiana tonight, this feels like the end of the road for the Bulls chances of making the play-in. Obviously they are still mathematically still into it but they will now have to go 3-0 to finish the regular season to have a chance.
Chicago’s next game is on Thursday and against the team right below them in the standings in the Toronto Raptors.