The Chicago Bulls came inches from stealing a win in their NBA In-Season Tournament debut Friday night at the United Center but couldn’t sink the tying shot against the Brooklyn Nets.
With a 109-107 loss, the Bulls will have to come from behind to regain their standing in East Group C. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Bulls squander comeback opportunity.
The Bulls came from behind twice, only to fumble their opportunity for a win.
After falling behind by 10 points in the second quarter, the Bulls went on a 12-0 run led by Zach LaVine to tie the game with 5 minutes, 16 seconds left before the half. They pulled ahead by as many as five but lapsed in the final minute to allow the Nets to take a 59-58 halftime lead.
The fourth quarter ended the same way. The Bulls tied the game with 6:51 left, then spent the final minutes trading shots with the Nets.
Trailing 109-106 with four second remaining, LaVine drew a foul executed a perfect last-ditch play: making the first free throw, missing the second and snagging the offensive rebound. But he couldn’t land the tying shot, launching a rushed turnaround jumper with his foot on the 3-point line that clanked off the rim and into the arms of Day’Ron Sharpe.
2. Torrey Craig joins the starting lineup.
Coach Billy Donovan made his first rotation change of the season, moving Craig into the starting lineup to replace Patrick Williams. Craig has been a high-motor defensive anchor for the Bulls to start the season, crashing the offensive boards with gusto and bringing a sharper edge to 3-point shooting.
His starting debut wasn’t a statistical standout. Craig finished with three points, six rebounds and four assists. But it was the defensive effort that frustrated Craig the most.
“First quarter we gave up too many layups, too many easy baskets,” Craig said. “We’ve got to have more resistance on the defensive end.”
3. Patrick Williams records season highs off the bench.
The move to the secondary rotation appeared to benefit Williams, who finished with a season-high 10 points and five rebounds despite playing 20 minutes, 53 seconds.
Williams clearly thrived in rotations with defensive players such as Alex Caruso and Jevon Carter, who opened the game up in transition for the forward. Williams went coast-to-coast on a play in the third quarter, grabbing a defensive rebound and then pushing the pace to score a layup.
4. Bulls get hot — then cold — from 3-point range.
The Bulls seemed set to snap a streak of poor-shooting nights, going 9-for-17 from 3-point range in the first half. But that quickly cooled. The offense opened the second half 0-for-9 from behind the arc.
Alex Caruso scored the first 3-pointer of the second half for the Bulls with 6:51 left in the game. But they still finished the game 11-for-28 from 3-point range, landing only two 3s in the second half.
5. What does this mean for the tournament
The Bulls are 0-1 in East Group C, which includes the Nets, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic.
Each team in Group C will play one another then the top-ranked team will advance to the quarterfinals. In addition, the highest-ranked team from one of the three East groups will advance as a wild-card team.
The Bulls will play their next group-stage game Nov. 17 against the Orlando Magic.