This game was terrible.
The Circus Trip may be over but make no mistake- the good patrons at the United Center witnessed a clown show on Wednesday night. Despite returning home with the benefit of a 4 day break the Bulls laid an egg of truly baffling proportions, squandering an early 14 point lead and losing 96-90 to a depleted Lakers team playing their fourth game in five nights.
The Bulls combined to go 4-of-21 from the three point line, shot 12 fewer free throws than the Lakers, and in an extremely rare occurrence lost the rebounding battle 60 to 46. The Bulls have struggled with shooting the ball this season, especially in the absence of the still-concussed Doug McDermott. However, Chicago has continued to win games thank to their rebounding and their ability to get to the line. When those two factors don’t go their way…. well, yeah. This game was terrible.
There were times when it looked like the Lakers were gonna hand this one over. As I mentioned, this was a road game and their fourth in five nights. It's really really hard to play well under those circumstances, and the Lakers threw the ball away 23 times and committed 24 fouls. Did I mention this game was terrible? This game was terrible.
Still, the Bulls were able to go up 11 after one quarter. It looked like they were going to be able to put the game on cruise control as they have frequently done to struggling teams this year. But things are never as they seem, and Fred Hoiberg threw the Lakers a magic elixir by rolling out the Mirotic-Portis front court lineup. Whether or not Bobby Portis is an NBA player or not is a burning question in itself, but at this point we can most assuredly conclude that Portis is not an NBA center by any stretch of the imagination. He put up a +/- of -15 in just 11 minutes of action, and his presence on the floor for the Bulls continues to be somewhat of a vortex of doom, dragging his teammates down with him.
The Bulls were never able to get rolling again after that initial bench stint, and what ensued was a solid 30 minutes of awful. The Lakers double teamed Jimmy Butler with fervor, hounding him into a less-than-ideal 4-of-18 shooting night. Jimmy is a wizard, and he still managed to accumulate 22 points thanks to his 15 free throw attempts. He was never able to establish a rhythm, and the team suffered for it. The bench was terrible, scraping together just 16 points on 25 shot attempts with just 3 assists. To say the Bulls miss Doug McDermott’s scoring presence off the bench is an understatement, especially with the continued struggles of the wildly inconsistent Niko Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan. Denzel Valentine and Jerian Grant got minutes playing the same role as each other, with the former Michigan State Spartan getting the minutes in the 1st half, and Grant getting them in the 2nd. This doesn’t seem like a great way for Hoiberg to build lineup consistency, and neither grouping had a memorable performance.
This isn’t to discredit the Lakers, however, who played really hard given the circumstances and were rewarded justly. Julius Randle rebounded the ever loving hell out of the ball, collecting 20 boards on the night, 9 of which were on the offensive end. L.A. pushed the Bulls around all night and made Jimmy Butler as uncomfortable as physically possible. Despite a Jimmy three to tie it at 90 with about a minute to go, the Lakers came up with all the crucial buckets down the stretch, making the Bulls look like a continuation of the circus that just left the United Center.
The Bulls are back at it on Friday as they take on Lebron James and the Cavs at home. Per a bet with Dwyane Wade, Lebron will be arriving in full Cubs uniform. What could possibly go wrong?