Bulls observations: Last-gasp comeback falls short in quirky loss to Nets


That was a weird one. The Bulls took 28 more shots than the Nets, won the turnover battle 29-7, but fell short in Brooklyn 110-107. It's a familiar-feeling loss, but there was still much to observe:

Familiar themes pervaded this one

The Bulls forced 29 Nets turnovers (a new opponent season-high) but allowed Brooklyn to shoot 50% from the field. It felt most every Nets possession ended with either a cough-up or a clean look — a common refrain for this feast or famine Bulls defense.

Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie, specifically, shredded the Bulls early and often — those three combined for 70 points and nine 3-pointers and routinely operated with oceans of space as the Bulls scrambled to maintain their defensive rotations. Dinwiddie was 14-for-15 from the charity stripe, as well.

Also a familiar theme: Outside of points generated off turnovers (24) and on the fastbreak (18), the Bulls struggled to get much going offensively, shooting just just 42.4% from the field (before getting hot in the waning seconds of the game, they were below 40%). The Bulls took 28 more shots than Brooklyn, won the turnover battle 29-7, and lost. In the Nets’ first game after Kenny Atkinson’s unceremonious exit, they did all they could to give this game away, but the Bulls wouldn’t let them. A 50-31 disparity on the boards had a lot to do with that. 

Lauri Markkanen still has a ways to go

Markkanen had nowhere to go but up after posting career-worsts in points (3) and field goal shooting (1-for-10) against the Pacers on Friday. Sunday, his third game back from a pelvis injury, he scored 16 points and shot 4-for-5 from 3-point range in 26 minutes.

The Bulls drew up a double-screen to free Markkanen up for a corner 3 on the first play of the game — an encouraging sign. Markkanen drilled it with ease.

But after scoring nine points on three 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes of the game, Markkanen tallied just seven the rest of the way. He ended the game with just two rebounds and eight field goal attempts, with the majority of his looks coming on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Minutes restriction or not, the Bulls will need more from him.

Another last gasp fell short

In peak Bulls fashion, a late-game comeback push was in the cards. After trailing by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, they pulled within 107-104 with 12.3 seconds left to play, and had a shot to tie after Shaq Harrison forced a turnover off LeVert’s foot. Even shooting just 3-for-9 from the field, Harrison was splendid today, stuffing the stat sheet with six points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and a resounding block in 36 minutes. 

White got off a relatively clean pull-up 3 for the tie that touched every part of the rim before rattling out on that last possession. Spencer Dinwiddie then hit one of two free throws — the Nets’ took a whopping 27 in the final period, making 23 — that put the game just out of reach. 

The Bulls pulled out all the stops in the fourth, resorting to hacking Deandre Jordan down the stretch (to little affect, he went 3-for-4 at the line) and getting two off-balance 3-pointers from Otto Porter Jr. in the final 34 seconds. They won the quarter 37-33, shot 50% and made more field goals (12-for-24) than the Nets attempted (5-for-10). They dragged this one’s conclusion out as long as they could.

But it’s ultimately another loss, one that moves the Bulls to a season-low 22 games under .500 (21-43). They’re 2-13 in their last 15 games and 0-21 against the top eight teams in the East. 

Lines of the afternoon

  • Otto Porter Jr. — 23 points, 4 steals, 9-17 FG, 3-8 3PT, +15: Porter came off the bench for the fourth game in a row and led the Bulls in scoring in 25 minutes — the most he’s played since returning from a 51-game absence. Boylen has repeatedly said he values Porter’s steady hand with the reserves (the Bulls' bench outscored the Nets' 65-23), but it’s worth monitoring if and when he slides back in with the starters.

  • Coby White — 21 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 8-21 FG, 3-9 3PT, 35 minutes: White has shouldered the offensive load for the Bulls admirably in Zach LaVine’s now four-game absence. He’s averaging 35 minutes and 21 shots per game since then. First start coming soon?

  • Tomas Satoransky — 4 pts, 1-7 FG, 0-1 3PT: Satoransky is in the midst of a shooting slump for the ages. He’s 2 for his last 18 from 3-point range and entered play with 37.8/18.2/76.9 shooting splits since the All-Star break. 

Next up: Back home for the Cavaliers on Tuesday.

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