10 observations: Bulls comeback falls short vs. Warriors


The Chicago Bulls' 119-111 road loss to the Golden State Warriors Friday night is truly in the eye of the beholder.

One could look at the Bulls nearly mounting a 19-point second half comeback in the reigning NBA champions' house as a spirited show of resilience.

Or, one could see the familiar patterns their ultimate defeat — shoddy ball containment, a massive 3-point shooting disparity, and being out-executed in the clutch, to name three — and leave disheartened as the team falls to 9-13 on the season.

Whichever way you choose to view the result, here are 10 observations:

1. Billy Donovan made his first adjustment before the game began by sliding Alex Caruso and Javonte Green into the starting lineup ahead of Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams.

This change was not directly hinted at, but it was not much of a surprise; the Bulls' prior first unit — with Dosunmu, Williams, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević — had been outscored by a rate of three points per 100 possessions in 428 possessions of play, according to Cleaning the Glass, logging a 17th percentile offensive rating (107.7), 50th percentile defensive rating (110.7) and often starting games in flat fashion.

The new starters, who had played just two possessions this season prior to Friday, were outscored 15-12 before Donovan's first substitute. Those minutes were defined by the Bulls shooting 2-for-6 from the free throw line, and two transition breakdowns leading to successive 3-pointers by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson after Caruso started the game glued to Curry's hip.

2. The big picture of the first quarter was positive. Despite a 14-point flurry by Warriors sixth man Jordan Poole, and a handful of blender-like ball movement sequences, the Bulls hung around to trail just 35-33 after 12 minutes. Chalk that up to the Bulls moving (eight assists) and shooting (5-for-7 from 3-point range) the ball sharply, and goading Golden State into early foul trouble en route to 12 free throw attempts.

3. Even after missing their first six shots of the second quarter and soon after falling behind by as many as 10 points, the Bulls played a solid first half, mostly keeping things tight by scoring 17 points off 12 Warriors turnovers.

That is, until the final minute of the second quarter.

In a span of 48 seconds to close the half, the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to stretch a 55-52 lead to 63-52. The most back-breaking stretch was the final 10 seconds, when LaVine fouled Kevon Looney on a layup, Looney made one of two foul shots, and the Warriors rebounded his miss leading to a Donte DiVincenzo 3-pointer. It was a classic example of the Bulls' attention to detail waning in a crucial moment.

4. Golden State opened the floodgates further in the third quarter, jumping ahead by as many as 19 points while shooting 52 percent and hitting six 3-pointers in the frame.

The Bulls competed well for the first 23 minutes of the first half against the Warriors offense's relentless cutting, passing and shooting. But eventually, they succumbed. By game's end, the Warriors had slung 30 assists and buried 20 3-pointers (at a 40 percent clip).

5. But that does not mean the Bulls went quietly into the night. In fact, they cut an at one juncture 19-point Warriors lead to one at the 2:27 mark of the fourth quarter.

The keys were turning defense into offense (the Bulls scored four points off three Warriors cough-ups in the first half of the fourth), Goran Dragić heating up to score 10 points and drill two 3-pointers in a hurry, and Javonte Green inserting his energy and finishing into the contest with seven points of his own.

But the Warriors finished closing time on a 9-2 run, completely out-executing the Bulls at both ends. Draymond Green was particularly impactful, burying an unlikely contested 3-pointer to make it 113-109 Warriors after a LaVine triple had made it 110-109, then blocking a LaVine layup and Caruso jumper moments later. Thompson, who struggled badly with his shot all night (3-for-13 from 3-point range), came up large with four free throws and a midrange jumper. And Curry (playing with five fouls) and Looney each blocked DeRozan in the final minutes as well.

The result moved the Bulls to 2-9 in "clutch" game for the season, defined as contests within a five-point margin with five or fewer minutes to play. That is the worst record in the league in such games after they went 25-16 (fourth in the NBA) last season.

6. For the game, Poole led the way for Golden State with 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 7-for-13 from 3-point land. There was some ridiculous shotmaking embedded in that line, but ultimately, put it in the book as another smooth-scoring guard getting loose on the Bulls after Devin Booker put up 51 points on 20-for-25 shooting through three quarters on Wednesday.

7. Those seven 3-pointers also led the Warriors to a staggering 33-point advantage from beyond the arc, making 20-of-50 3-pointers to the Bulls' 9-of-27. Yes, after shooting 5-for-7 from long range in the first quarter, the Bulls went 4-for-20 the rest of the way.

But that disparity should come as no surprise. The Bulls entered play dead last in the NBA in 3-point attempts per game (28.9) and 28th in 3-point makes per game (10.2), while the Warriors were first (42.9) and third (16.1) in those categories, respectively.

8. This felt like a kitchen-sink coaching effort from Donovan. Not only did he shake up the starting lineup, he also played 11 players in total, and in a series of combinations that he had rarely deployed in the past. It felt as if he was searching for hot hands to ride, and eventually found them in Derrick Jones Jr., who played over Andre Drummond at backup center in the second half and had a few active sequences, Dragić, who played 23 minutes to Coby White's seven, and Green.

9. Vučević was the only Bulls star to show up on a consistent basis in this one, notching 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting and pulling down 11 rebounds. Despite scoring 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the third quarter, DeRozan shot 0-for-9 across the first, second and fourth; and LaVine (21 points, 8-for-18 shooting) was hampered by foul trouble, picking up his fourth personal foul in the final seconds of the second quarter and his fifth with four minutes to play in the third.

10. To tie a loose end on the parties involved in the starting lineup change: Caruso scored just two points, but handed out six assists and was a hound on Curry, playing a big role in limiting the two-time MVP to 6-for-16 shooting and five turnovers; Green scored 15 points, made five of his seven shots and was a defensive spark early in the fourth quarter; Dosunmu notched nine points, five rebounds, three assists and shot 4-for-4 off the bench; and Williams scored seven points, shot 3-for-9 and picked up four fouls in 19 minutes.

Next up: At the Sacramento Kings on Sunday to close this six-game road trip, for which the Bulls enter play 2-3.

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