As good as the wins against the top tier teams in the NBA have been for the Chicago Bulls, they continue to struggle against teams worse or around them in the standings. On Wednesday night it was losing 100-97 to a Washington Wizards team missing their two best players.
The Bulls were on the road and without DeMar DeRozan for the first time this season, but still: up 13 points at halftime and a LaVine three got their largest lead of the game at 16 shortly into the 3rd quarter. But that quarter turned into a disaster, as the Wizards outscored Chicago 41-21 in the quarter.
The Bulls suddenly found themselves down and looking at a mountain, which was what an 8 point deficit must’ve felt like in that final quarter. Both teams scored a combined 30 points in the final period.
Chicago had a chance to send the game to overtime after Kyle Kuzma knocked down a fade away three with 5 seconds left. With the game on the line and no DeMar DeRozan, the ball went into the hands of Zach LaVine who looked like he was anticipating a foul and drove inside the three-point line. But no foul was called and he ended up missing a mid-range jumper as the game ended in baffling fashion for the Bulls.
It’s just another gut punch loss in a season full of them.
As a team Chicago shot 46.6 percent from the field but hit just 31 percent of their shots from deep. But after looking great in the first half, the offense crumbled in the second half with just 38 points after halftime. This type of production won’t win you any NBA game. Even against an opponent seemingly looking to give the game away, as the Wizards committed 17 turnovers as compared to the 12 of Chicago.
The Bulls were absolutely worked on the boards however, losing the rebounding battle 52-39. Washington got numerous second chance opportunities and it helped them come back and eventually win the game.
LaVine was Chicago’s leading scorer as he took the reins with DeRozan sidelined due to injury. He had a spectacular game (outside of the final possesion), leading the team with 38 points on 15 of 28 shooting with five rebounds. He hit four three-pointers including this extremely clutch catch-and-shoot in under a second of play.
LAVINE WITH 1 SECOND ON THE SHOT CLOCK pic.twitter.com/a8RSTwcome— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 12, 2023
Nikola Vucevic was the only other starter in double digits with 15 points and 10 rebounds along with five assists, with the next highest point total coming from Coby White off the bench with 13 points including three three-pointers plus four rebounds.
With it looking like he had runway to take more shots with DeRozan out, instead Patrick Williams had just six points on a mere eight attempts. With one of Chicago’s leading scorers out, there will be more shot attempts to go around and Williams has to be more aggressive in looking for his own offense.
Meanwhile Washington was led by the 21 of Kuzma, but it was their 3rd and 4th string centers who lifted them unexpectedly with Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford out. Bulls legend Taj Gibson started and played 25 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing eight rebounds. Then Anthony Gill had a career high 18 points off the bench.
CAREER HIGH 16 POINTS IN 16 MINS FOR ANTHONY GILL pic.twitter.com/Kisv2pZPDg— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) January 12, 2023
Gill also had 3 offensive rebounds, with Deni Avdija matching that and adding 17 defensive boards. Meanwhile Andre Drummond 5 fouls in 8 minutes.
Consistency continues to be Chicago’s Achilles heel. They continue to play to the level of their opponent, rising for the big occasions and falling flat against teams they should be beating. The third quarter is really where Chicago lost this game as they were playing catch up all of the fourth quarter.
The late game execution was terrible without DeRozan, no way around that, but overall this was another example of the Bulls glaring issues. With the Bulls hovering around the play-in spots, they are just one losing streak away from forcing management to re-evaluate the direction of the team.
The Bulls return home to the United Center to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.