The Warriors still have a dynasty when they play the Bulls. Forty percent of their victories are against coach Steve Kerr’s former employer.
And with a chance to win three games for the first time since February of last season, the Bulls came up small in the big moments yet again.
They failed to score a field goal the final 3 minutes, 35 seconds of a head-scratching 100-98 loss to the Warriors, managing just 15 points while getting outscored by eight in the final period.
On a night Zach LaVine did plenty right, the uber-confident guard made an unconventional decision at the end. With the Bulls down two, he waved off a Wendell Carter Jr. screen and went for the win, missing a 3-pointer that he rose to take with 3.3 seconds left.
Both LaVine and coach Jim Boylen offered plausible explanations for the isolation, saying they didn’t want perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green switching on to LaVine in a pick-and-roll. However, Boylen did concede “the timing of it maybe could be better” since most teams try to give themselves a chance at a tip-in or putback off a miss in those situations.
A defiantly confident LaVine didn’t even concede that. The Warriors’ first contact with the eventually secured defensive rebound came with 0.6 left on the clock.
“I just wish I made it,” LaVine said when asked if he would’ve liked to take the shot earlier. “I think I got a good look at it. I’ll take it again. I think I’ll make it too.”
Boylen defended LaVine through several questions about the shot.
“I like the fact that the ball is in Zach’s hands. I believe in Zach at the end of the game. He can make that shot. He has made it before,” Boylen said. “The timing of it maybe could be better. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s how you feel. He has done a good job of that. I believe in him in that situation. And [Friday night] it just didn’t go down.”
The missed shot obscured LaVine’s positives. While he did have five turnovers, he had early assists without trying to force offense, not scoring until 1:27 left in the first half.
Then came one of those patented LaVine scoring outbursts. He scored 21 of his 22 points in 7:39 and finished with six assists and six rebounds.
“Obviously, I didn’t want to give them another possession. I was either going to take it to the hoop and try to get fouled or go for the game,” LaVine said of the final sequence. “It was supposed to be me and Lauri in the pick-and-roll but Draymond was being that guy to switch and I didn’t want to deal with him in the pick-and-roll. I rejected it. I looked at the clock and it was three seconds I think. I had a good look. I thought it was good.”
The final points of the game came on a Green alley-oop to Glenn Robinson III for a dunk with 63 seconds left. The Bulls blitzed D’Angelo Russell, who slipped a pass to Green through the double team.
“That’s what we felt was the best situation for us,” Boylen said. “Get the ball out of DLo’s hands and make someone else make a play.”
Dunn posted his league-high eighth game with three or more steals and had been hounding Russell all game, helping limit him to seven points.
Boylen used a five-man substitution — don’t worry; four of the incoming players were starters — with 8:32 left and the Bulls up four. Coby White and Denzel Valentine had been rolling, which is why Boylen fielded a question about his decision.
“I just wanted to get my starters back in the game and close the game out,” Boylen said.
Boylen drew criticism in the home collapse against the Lakers for not bringing his starters back. Ultimately, most coaches live and die with their starters. And they’re the ones who coughed up the four-point lead.
Valentine actually even got ejected from the bench 42 seconds later for drawing his second technical foul.
“I had it rolling, but Coach made a sub. I wish I would’ve been available. I watched the fourth and I think I could’ve been useful the rest of the fourth,” Valentine said. “I just have to learn from these types of things and just move on.”
Valentine said it’s the first time he has been ejected from a game in any sport at any level. He drew his first technical foul in a double-technical situation while jawing with Omari Spellman. An animated Valentine scored in double figures for just his second time this season and is clearly relishing reappearing in the rotation.
“Two hard teams playing basketball, and it got a little carried away,” Valentine said. “My passion has been taken to the next level because I was out for a year. I literally live for basketball. This is what I love to do.”
Boylen adamantly pointed to progress with ball movement, and cited work ethic in practice and care factor for why he believes longer stretches of consistency will follow.
The painful fourth quarter offered a counter argument. In those moments, the Bulls looked like a young team that doesn't know how to close out games.
“I think we beat ourselves,” LaVine said.
He wouldn’t get much argument there.
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