Bulls Can't Fly With Pelicans, 132-128
Bulls collapse in the 4th quarter
In the end for the Bulls Monday, it was perhaps nothing but a typical tourist's night in New Orleans, imbibing exhilaration and euphoria before waking up with vomit all over yourself. That was because after holding a 15-point lead with under five minutes left in the game against a Pelicans team with two starting All-Stars, the Bulls finished with a sickening stretch and lost 132-128 in double overtime.
This in a game in which Justin Holiday actually ended up with a chance to win at the regulation buzzer with three free throws; he made two. "I thought it was cash," said Holiday. "It just didn't go in. It wasn't meant to happen. I was hype."
Who dat gonna beat dem Bulls? Yup, DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins with the big Voodoo of 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists, a historic statistics line matched only by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the last time in 1972. Anthony Davis added 34 points.
"We flat out wanted it more," said Cousins.
The moody seven footer can be a force for both good and bad. Sometimes he makes teammates faint. This time it was his feints which were too quick for the Bulls.
Jerian Grant led the Bulls with 22 points and a career high 13 assists, but committed five of his six turnovers after the third quarter as the New Orleans parade this time was for a Bulls funeral. Robin Lopez also had 22 points, but with Grant a total of 11 turnovers. Lauri Markkanen had 14 points, including several more dunks, two over Cousins, with a career high 17 rebounds. Holiday had 15 points, but one of eight on threes and Nikola Mirotic had 14 points.
Zach LaVine had 19 points in his renewed 24 minutes playing time, but with starting point guard Kris Dunn still out with a concussion, even LaVine couldn't help staunch the flow of late regulation failure with a lazy pass to Lopez for a turnover and zero for three shooting in the last three minutes.
With the Bulls leading 108-91 with 5:06 left, New Orleans' guards began pressuring the ball intensely and the Bulls feel flat with six turnovers and shot two of seven. Another haunted house in New Orleans? Yet, the Bulls still had the chance to win the game. Grant fired half court to Holiday with 3.2 seconds left and the Bulls out of timeouts. Holiday took about five dribbles, albeit somewhat awkwardly, to get to the three point line to attempt the three. He was inexplicably fouled by Darius Miller, effortlessly dropped in the first two after a long officials' review, the third hitting short and then back rim and out as Holiday clutches both fists in despair.
"He made the hard ones," said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. "The first one is usually the hardest. He made a hell of play to get fouled in the first place, to even get himself to the line. I thought he was terrific guarding Jrue, who has been playing a really high level of basketball now. So I thought Justin was excellent."
There really was a lot of excellence from the Bulls, taking control of the game after being outplayed in the first half against a Pelicans teams with two elite stars. The Bulls fell to 18-29 while New Orleans is 25-21 and sixth in the Western Conference.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things out there," said Hoiberg. "A lot of positives to come in here against a team playing really good basketball. Unfortunately, we couldn't make the plays when we needed them."
It actually appeared like the Bulls had done so, however, a determined third quarter to wrest control of the game with a 10-2 start to the quarter with a LaVine three and a driving three-point play. The recovering guard was active and alert after a pair of poor shooting games, though his minutes still were monitored and modulated. The lately high scoring Lopez combined with Grant for a pair of baskets midway trough the third as the Bulls recovered the lead after a Davis-inspired run, Grant playing the best he had all season. Through three quarters, at least.
"I thought we had really good flow for the most part all the way up to midway through the fourth," said Hoiberg. "I thought Jerian had a great game, You look at his line, six of seven shots with 13 assists. Their pressure did bother us. It definitely slowed us down, which forced shots at the end of the shot clock. You have to try to do the things that got you the lead. The 15-point lead we had, which was a lot of pace, a lot of movement. Still lot of good things."
Markkanen might have gotten a few more shots, but Grant did have things going so well working with Lopez. The Bulls with LaVine dribbling in for dunks started 13-5, though trailed 25-21 after one quarter. New Orleans led 54-48 at halftime, but they seemed typically uninterested with Cousins and Rajon Rondo taking turns trying three pointers. The path to a comeback was there for the Bulls. They noticed as well with the 10-2 start to the second half, taking an 81-75 lead as Holiday and Denzel Valentine banged in back to back threes before the Pelicans struggled back to tie after three quarters at 81.
When the Bulls then absolutely overwhelmed the Pelicans, and it appeared like the Pelicans players were losing control. Jameer Nelson got a frustration technical foul running down Nikola Mirotic. David Nwaba dunked, kept the ball alive for a Bobby Portis putback, drove and even made a short bank shot. Talk about your big easy. Talking too soon?
It was a 22-5 Bulls start to the fourth quarter for a 104-86 lead and this was looking like a very fat Monday for the Bulls after their road win in Atlanta. They close this trip Wednesday in Philadelphia. It seems like it was the Pelicans who had lost their poise. It turned out the Bulls were the fish in the beaks of these hungry Pelicans.
It was all Davis and Cousins now, first Davis running lob pick and roll plays and spin moves and then Cousins boogie-ing down the lane and repeatedly to the free throw line. Someone finally must have reminded him he was bigger than everyone else.
The moody seven footer can be a force for both good and bad. Sometimes he makes teammates faint. This time it was his feints which were too quick for the Bulls. Though the larger problem for the Bulls was this series of contested jump shots, balls tipped away on those lazy handoff passes. Grant was getting flummoxed. He tends to dribble too much when the pressure mounts. Perhaps Ryan Arcidiacono, who played well in Atlanta, could have helped. But he hardly played before then. The pressure was perhaps too great. Hoiberg tried Valentine and LaVine to run things, but they appeared equally flustered.
We gave up two offensive rebounds in the first half and 13 in the second. Inability to get a rebound late obviously cost us.
"Their pressure getting into us, lost all of our pace," agreed Hoiberg. "I thought we did a really good job of it, for the most part, the entire game. It really slowed us down and we had trouble getting into an offense. That's what got their run started."
Now it was a battle against the clock; but we see these things happen all the time at the end of football games. The team that doesn't try to win generally loses. When you play the clock and pray, the other team tends to prey on your weaknesses. You become as soft as a fresh beignet. The Bulls were about to take a powder.
"They turned it up physically," said Justin Holiday. "When my brother started guarding me full court, they all started pressuring us a little more and I mean sometimes it's tough because when they turn the pressure up like that and we have the lead, we don't necessarily want to be in a rush to score. When they are scoring at the other end, we have to get stops on the other end and rebound the ball."
Little of which the Bulls did. Though for a while it looked like they might escape when Lopez stopped a 9-0 New Orleans run with a daring hook in the lane for a 110-100 Bulls lead with 3:22 left.
The Bulls were forcing misses, but couldn't keep Davis and Cousins off the boards, offensive rebounds for the Pelicans decisive in regulation and the overtimes. Maybe two more Bulls baskets would be enough. They had three minutes. They needed at last four. The Bulls would get one, a Markkanen driving bank shot with 15.4 seconds left to tie the game at 112. Once you lose one of those leads, you rarely win. Though the Bulls almost did with those Holiday free throws. It was 21-2 New Orleans over four and a half minutes until that Markkanen score; you probably don't deserve to win after that.
"We gave up two offensive rebounds in the first half and 13 in the second," Hoiberg pointed out. "Inability to get a rebound late obviously cost us."
Davis glided down the lane on the pick and roll and was fouled after that Markkanen score. He made both free throws for the 114-112 New Orleans lead with 3.2 seconds left before the Holiday two of three.
Then it was overtime without LaVine with his minutes expired and soon without Davis for the Pelicans. He fouled out three minutes into the first overtime.
The Bulls showed tenacity to open the first overtime with a Mirotic roll for a three-point play and then Markkanen driving past Davis from the left side and dunking over Cousins, Markkanen's aggressive play building from game to game. Still, it was a Boogie Night. It was 119-116 Bulls with 3:37 left in that first overtime. Jrue Holiday missed a jumper. But the ball began to stick with excessive dribbling and Grant threw the ball away. The Pelicans moved ahead 120-119 on a pair of Jrue Holiday scores. Grant was fouled and made a pair of free throws after Davis' sixth foul. Markkanen had another excellent defensive play with a block against Holiday, but Markkanen made just one of two free throws with 31.7 seconds left for a tie at 122.
The Pelicans had two more chances with another offensive rebound, but missed both for the second overtime. New Orleans took control in the second overtime with two Grant turnovers and one by Holiday in succession after New Orleans went ahead 127-126. Former Bull E'Twaun Moore made a crucial three pointer for a 130-126 New Orleans lead. Markkanen kept the Bulls alive with a steal from Moore with 31.4 seconds left in the second overtime and two free throws to get the Bulls within 130-128. But Cousins with four Bulls around him back tapped his own miss. Cousins got the ball back, was fouled and made both free throws for the final four-point margin.
The Bulls outscored the Pelicans inside 66-56 in a game with 12 ties and 11 lead changes. They had a 19-12 lead in fast break points and if Cousins and Davis hadn't played could have won by 70 points. The Bulls had 31 assists and even with Cousins getting 24 rebounds, the Bulls were only outrebounded by one. The Bulls played an inspiring game; mostly. New Orleans was 16 of 44 on threes and Cousins had to play almost 52 minutes to scratch out the win.
As the Bulls plane lifted off late Monday night, they probably could almost hear the echoes ringing in their ears from the late Antoine Dominique Domino Jr.
My tears fell like rain;
Ain't that a shame.
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