The Chicago Bulls came out of the gate looking confident. And how could you not after taking down the previous two Eastern Conference champs?
Four of the team’s five starters found the bottom of the net by the time the first quarter hit the 9:45 mark. They quickly got up to a 14-2 lead and didn’t miss a single shot until Zach LaVine’s layup spun around the rim at the 7:14 mark. It continued a recent trend of the starters playing like … well … starters, which we all know was bizarrely the opposite through the first few weeks of this season.
Unfortunately, this production from the starting five seemed to also come with a dip from the second unit. The normally-strong bench mob came on and quickly fumbled the Bulls’ lead. The Thunder found themselves tied 30-30 before the emerging superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sank a buzzer-beater shot to end the final frame with the advantage.
From there on out, it was a game. Some might say too much of a game.
The Thunder took control up until midway through the 4th quarter. The Bulls were able to piece together an impressive run where they scored on five-straight possessions to regain the lead. Then, despite having a clear advantage in the experience and talent category, the Bulls failed to close out the game.
Gilgeous-Alexander hit two of OKC’s final three shots to help send the game into OT. Once again, with under a minute to go, the Bulls had themselves in a position to win. DeMar DeRozan proceeded to foul SGA behind the 3-point line, and the game was as good as over.
I want to make one thing clear: The problem wasn’t that this game was close. The Thunder have played really tight games with some of the best teams in the league. But those teams pulled out the win.
What the Bulls did is revert back to playing catch up and struggling to perform in the clutch. And that’s the exact opposite of what we hoped to see after the past two victories. This is the youngest team in the NBA, and the whole point of “continuity” is to have the experience and skill to finish out battles against lesser opponents.
I just don’t know what to think about this team right now.
Check out the full box score here.