In my heart of hearts, I do believe that the Chicago Bulls are headed in the right direction (or at least a better one than they were under the GarPax regime) with the likes of first-year head coach Billy Donovan and executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas heading up this rebuild. But the way that Donovan and the Bulls fell short against his former team on the night of Jan. 15 really felt like the old squad under the direction of former head coach Jim Boylen.
The Bulls had a pretty thoroughly embarrassing loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road on Jan. 15, which came in overtime by the final score of 127-125. This was definitely one of the worst teams that the Bulls have lost to in a dozen games played so far this season, and it came in a weird fashion too.
A trend that was common for Boylen and the Bulls last season was blowing large leads, sometime bigger than two-dozen points. In this loss to the Thunder heading into the weekend, the Bulls held a 20+ point lead at one point about halfway through the third quarter. They even held a double-digit lead at one point with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But that was all for naught as they couldn’t hold it together, even through overtime.
The Bulls got a solid outing from the standout shooting guard Zach LaVine in this tough loss to the Thunder on Friday night. LaVine looked visibly frustrated with the lack of support in this game, especially down the stretch, and rightly so.
In this loss to the Thunder, LaVine registered a game-high 35 points, to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, one steal, no blocks, and a whopping six turnovers. And he shot an efficient 11-of-19 from the field, 8-of-14 from beyond the arc, and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line.
Two common themes that led to this loss for the Bulls were a lack of efficient shooting from the charity stripe and rampant turnovers in the second half. The Bulls more than doubled the Thunder turnovers in this game, 24-11. And there were points in the second half where the Bulls had just as many turnovers as field goals made.
The Bulls started off this game shooting well from the free-throw line, but made well under 60 percent of their attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Moreover, things won’t get much easier for Donovan and the Bulls from here on out. Their next two games will also be on the road against foes from the Western Conference in the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets.
The Bulls need to get at least one win in those two games before they fall too far behind in the Eastern Conference standings. And more so than anything, they need a win to boost morale for this young core, after a few tough losses in a row. This now makes it three losses in a row in this four-game losing streak for the Bulls that have come by a margin of three points or less.
Next up for LaVine, Donovan, and the Bulls is that aforementioned meeting with the Mavericks on the road at the American Airlines Center on the afternoon of Jan. 17. Tip off time between the Bulls and Mavericks is set for 2 p.m. CT.