Right when it looked like the Bulls were about to get run off the court early in the fourth quarter against the Jazz, they cut a 13-point deficit down to four with just under seven minutes to play and seemed primed for a fun finish in Utah. Instead, the Jazz turned around and actually did run the Bulls off the court, going on a 14-0 spurt to turn the game into a laugher. Chicago wound up getting tagged with a 125-110 loss, yet another ugly defeat against one of the best teams in the NBA.
Making it even more painful was the fact that it was Nickeil Alexander-Walker who delivered the death blows during the run. NAW had scored just nine points in limited action for the Jazz after his trade from the Pelicans, but he had 16 points off the bench in this game, including eight during the game-deciding stretch. Six of those points came on back-to-back wide-open triples.
Donovan Mitchell also played a key role during the run, and it was Mitchell who finally gave the Jazz some separation earlier in the game when the Bulls were really battling in the third quarter. Despite playing like crap offensively in the first half, Chicago was right in the game at halftime and actually held the lead at various points in the third quarter as Zach LaVine got hot. Unfortunately, Mitchell was hotter, and he wound up scoring a ridiculous 25 of his game-high 37 points in the third quarter. He hit seven triples in the frame to give the Jazz an eight-point lead heading to the fourth quarter.
To LaVine’s credit, he had one of his best games in a while, going for 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-10 from 3-point range. It was the first time he hit five 3-pointers in a game since Feb. 9. He added five assists and three steals as part of a solid all-around performance. He was even only a minus-1 in the box score despite the ugly final score.
As promised after last game, LaVine came out much more aggressive to start this one. While he struggled with his shot early on (3-of-10 in the first half), the aggressiveness was nice to see and he made some nice defensive plays. That aggressiveness started to pay off in the third quarter when the shots started to fall and he started to engage in a shootout with Mitchell.
Unfortunately, LaVine didn’t get enough help and the Bulls just didn’t get enough stops against Mitchell and Utah’s onslaught. The Jazz shot 50.6% from the field and 19-of-39 from 3-point range despite not having second-leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic, In addition to the big games for Mitchell and NAW, Jordan Clarkson pitched in 26 points off the bench, throwing in his normal diet of difficult shots.
I didn’t think the Bulls’ defense was that bad for a good portion of this game, and they were able to force a bunch of turnovers that helped keep things close for a while. But the Jazz just couldn’t miss in the second half (57.5% overall, 12-of-21 from 3), and things started to break down more in those final two quarters as the home team scored 71 points after a sluggish first half.
DeMar DeRozan had 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but the Bulls were outscored by 24 in his minutes. Ayo Dosunmu had a fine game with 15 points and six assists, though he did struggle to contain Utah’s guards. Coby White had 12 points off the bench, but eight of those came almost immediately before he was quiet the rest of the night.
The rest of the team stunk. Nikola Vucevic had a 10/11 double-double, but he was wrecked by Rudy Gobert and went 0-of-6 from 3-point range. Vooch was a minus-18. Alex Caruso had one of his worst games of the season and was favoring his wrist, though Billy Donovan said afterward it’s just “sore.” Nobody else did anything of consequence.
This Bulls season feels like it’s about to go totally off the rails. They’ve lost seven of nine and now sit at 41-28. Their next game up is on Friday in Phoenix against the league-best Suns, so that’s probably another loss. At this point, they’re just going to have to hope to eke out enough wins and/or hope the teams behind them lose enough to keep them in the top six, but even that might be asking too much at this point. While this team seems to be running out of gas, hopefully they can collect themselves and figure things out down the stretch to at least avoid the play-in tournament. But, right now, this shit is ugly.