The Bulls fell to the Jazz 125-110 and drop their second in a row on this West coast mini-trip. With the loss, they drop a spot in the East standings.
This is the most adversity the Bulls have faced all season and every game matters when playoff seeding is on the line.
“Our margin for error isn’t that big,” Zach LaVine said after the game. “We’re competing, we’re close but we’re not getting the win and that’s what matters the most. We have to figure out what that factor is to help us get over the hump because until then, it’s all for nothing.”
Here are the three big keys to the game and what we can take away from them as the Bulls regular season push continues.
Zach’s best game in a minute
Finally, a good LaVine game.
LaVine has been putting up his usual numbers (at least close), but since sustaining that knee injury, he hasn’t been himself. This was one of his best performances of the season, on both sides of the ball, pre- and -post injury.
LaVine scored 33, his highest scoring game since January 1st. He was in attack mode from the start and was locked in defensively.
Zach LaVine kept his word, putting the pressure on the rim after “tip-toeing” into Monday’s loss against the Kings. He got to the line eight times and took nine of his 20 shots at the rim. This was an encouraging step for LaVine, only to be dampened by looking a little gimpy on his way out of the game in the fourth.
Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz’s 3 point eruption
Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz just went nuclear. Mitchell notched a career-high nine made three-pointers. Insane. And was hitting some high degree of difficulty shots.
The Bulls threw everything at Mitchell — switches, hedges, went over screens, under screens. None of it mattered.
“We started off trying to trap him to slow him down some. We were dropped back a few times. He did make some tough shots that I thought were well contested, well guarded,” Billy Donovan said. “Once we did start trapping, we, rotationally fouled quite a bit. Put them to the free throw line. The difference was the free throw line and the three point shooting.”
Bulls had some really nice defensive possessions, but once he got going, the defense collapsed on him, opening up the floor for the rest of the Jazz.
The wheels just fell off.
Gobert dominating the paint
Rudy Gobert strikes the fear of god into anyone foolish enough to drive at him.
Bulls shot only 24% of their shots at the rim in the first half, nine percent lower than their season average. This absolutely neutered the Bulls chances. Limited shots at the rim hurts enough on it’s own, but it also means fewer fouls drawn and free throws taken, fewer drive and kicks to the corners for three.
The Bulls battle math every night. They needed to do a better job drawing Gobert away from the basket to make their lives easier.
DeRozan only took three shots at the rim and took four free throws. The Bulls were praying their mid-rangers would count extra because there was no way to go shot-for-shot with Mitchell and expect to win in this one.