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Entering the first game of their four-game road trip, the Chicago Bulls fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-102 and now drop to 5-11 on the season. Led by a 40-point game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Bulls gave themselves a chance to win after another slow start, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
Here are my takeaways from Wednesday’s game.
1. Zach LaVine missed the game with right foot soreness. While that would typically not be headline worthy, considering all the drama surrounding him, it of course sparks some conspiracy theories.
Did the Bulls hold him out because of his poor performance in recent games? Are they trying to prevent serious injury to preserve his trade value?
Probably not. Here’s what Billy Donovan had to say about the late scratch after the game.
2. The slow starts continue. Chicago started 0-of-6 from the field, scoring their first bucket on an offensive rebound put back by Nikola Vucevic at 9:51.
The Bulls trailed by 12 at the end of the first quarter and by as many as 18. They scored 40 points in the first half, marking the fourth game out of their last five in which they have scored 40 or fewer.
3. DeMar DeRozan (25 points on 6-of-17 shooting) was a big part of the Bulls slow start. He didn’t score his first field goal until 1:17 in the 2nd quarter.
The Thunder aggressively trapped DeRozan, unbothered by the Bulls three point shooters. It worked at times, but the Bulls did mount a comeback attempt in the third quarter largely due to DeRozan forcing the issue. The Bulls got him the ball on the left wing, spacing the floor and letting him get to work.
DeRozan, of course, went superhuman in the second half, bringing the Bulls back to life and giving them a real chance to win late.
- First half: Four points on 1-of-8 shooting, 2-of-2 free throws in the first half
- Third quarter: 12 points on 2-of-5 shooting, 8-of-8 free throws in the third quarter
- Fourth quarter: 9 points on 3-of-4 shooting, 3-of-3 free throws
DeRozan crossed the 22,000 points mark in the third quarter, making him one of only 36 players in the history of the game to reach those heights.
More on DeRozan’s role in the late game offense below.
4. Coby White (23 points on 8-of-17 shooting) was the only reason the Bulls were remotely close in the first half. White made six threes in the first half
White shot just 29.6 percent on threes during his first 13 games, but has finally caught fire during his last three. After going 8-for-18 (44.4 percent) during the two games against Miami, before making 7-of-12 on Wednesday night.
5. The Bulls have been a non-threat shooting the basketball for the last few years, but they are becoming slightly more prolific as a three-point shooting team, they just haven’t been making their shots.
The Bulls made 17 threes on 44 attempts, their second highest number in both categories.
6. Starting in place of LaVine, Patrick Williams was invisible in the first half, but came alive after a monster dunk in the third quarter. He finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting.
The turnovers continue to be a big problem for Williams, whose ball handling, footwork and touch all need a ton of work. It feels like every time he puts the ball on the floor, he’s going to dribble it off his foot. Mark K is all over the Pat can’t dribble beat.
7. The Bulls went back to their go-to play for late game offense. DeRozan comes off of a stagger screen from the weak side block to an empty strong side wing. He then calls for a screen, bringing one of the opponent’s worst defenders up to draw a switch.
Then, he goes to work.
The Bulls have spammed this action in late game scenarios all year and the Thunder were prepared. They sent two to DeRozan and forced him to give the ball up. The Bulls scored only five points in the final three minutes of the game.
8. Four Factors
The Bulls continue their struggles shooting the ball — their 49.4 effective field goal percentage is in line with their season numbers. The biggest difference in the game was the free throws — the Thunder shooting 31-of-38 to the Bulls 17-of-17.
Even though the Bulls won the three-point battle by 18 total points, between the poor shooting from the field, and the free throws, the Bulls couldn’t overcome.
Up next: Bulls road trip continues with a In-Season Tournament game in Toronto on Friday
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