With 1:09 left to go, the Chicago Bulls had a chance to do something they had never done.
The score was knotted up at 109 apiece when the 76ers called a timeout. When Philly stepped back on the court and drew a foul on Patrick Williams, the basketball gods gifted the Bulls with two-straight Joel Embiid clanks at the free-throw line. Chicago was now one possession away from snatching the lead with under a minute to go against a player they had never beaten.
- Then, that very player instantly took advantage of Zach LaVine’s somewhat ill-advised midrange jumper (more on that below) and buried a 3 off the lethal pick-and-pop with 18.7 left on the clock. The wide-open, go-ahead shot cemented Embiid’s 12th-straight victory over the Chicago Bulls. Yes, you read that right.
- Embiid went on to celebrate his undefeated resume over the Bulls with a speedy troll job on Instagram. The big man used the simple caption “Aaron Rodgers” to get his message of dominance across:
- As much as that infuriates me to my core, what am I going to say? He’s bulldozed over this team over and over again. And, just when I think the Bulls are finally about to shatter his ego, he steps up and hits the biggest shot of the night. I hate it, but he’s earned the right to troll.
- There will be times when I complain about the refs, but right now isn’t one of them. The bail-out call on Harden and the missed call on Embiid in the 4th quarter were frustrating, but they also didn’t decide that game. The Bulls simply shouldn’t have been in a position for those things to matter in the first place. They shouldn’t have had to waste energy clawing back from a 19-point lead, and they shouldn’t have made many of the other tiny mistakes we saw down the stretch. When you shoot just 37.5 percent from the field in the 4th quarter and turn the ball over five times, you’re likely going to lose the game.
- One of those missed shots came off a LaVine midrange jumper with about 41 seconds to go. When he dribbled toward the paint, Embiid, Harris, and Maxey all collapsed toward him, leaving Nikola Vucevic wide-open in the corner. Considering the big man was in the middle of his best game of the season and a 5-7 shooting performance from downtown, dumping the ball off felt like the obvious move. Unfortunately, LaVine just missed him.
“After looking, I should’ve thrown it to Vooch,” LaVine said told Bulls dot com. “He was wide open. It was a bad read on my part. I’m more confident than anybody to be able make that shot. Just if you’re going to take it, make it. If not, I’ve got to find Vooch. I wish I was able to redo it. That’s a learning process of us being in that situation. I made that mistake.”
- While I very much respect LaVine’s honesty and appreciate the fact that he promptly went to review that film, we all know hindsight is 20/20. Those are the plays that have to be converted if this team wants to prove they’re serious threats, so let’s hope this truly did serve as a crunch-time learning experience for the All-Star.
- I’m not going to lie to you, if the Bulls had Andre Drummond and Ayo Dosunmu for that game, I really do think they win. Philly’s small-ball second unit would have had zero answers for Drummond, especially when we consider just how well the big man has played to start this season. Not to mention, the addition of Dosunmu’s perimeter defense and improved catch-shoot shotmaking could have been huge in the clutch.
- Having said that, it doesn’t make me feel any better about the team’s second-straight loss. We know that this Bulls team struggles to stay healthy, and we can only play the “if only [fill in the blank] was healthy” game for so long. Do I think the Bulls beat the Spurs with Zach LaVine? Yeah. What about the Wizards? Mhm. But the fact of the matter is they didn’t, and nothing is going to change that.
- If we’re going to take anything positive away from last night, I guess it should be that the Bulls looked as good as they did when they relocated their identity. When this team is forcing turnovers and getting downhill, they truly have the athleticism and versatile offense to keep up with almost anyone. We saw that as they comfortably outscored Philly in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The problem is that starting the game with this identity shouldn’t be this complicated, particularly for a team that has prided itself on continuity.
- Can the Bears pull off another W?