The Bulls Saturday just about had the playoffs in their sight, their grasp, but it disappeared in a Brooklyn minute in a 107-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Bulls lost a nine-point lead in the last 4:24 as former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie made crucial free throws down the stretch and scored 19 points off the bench.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 33 points and nine clutch points down the stretch during the Nets late charge. Butler’s made a three at the buzzer for the final margin.
The game marked the return of Dwyane Wade after missing 11 games with an elbow injury. Wade finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Robin Lopez had 16 points and Jerian Grant had 15 points.
The Bulls fell to 39-41. The Nets are an NBA last 20-60.
Rajon Rondo remained out with a sore wrist, which left the Bulls in pain. Wade returned, but had an uneven start, not unexpectedly, committing a foul on the first possession and four first half turnovers as the Nets took control from the beginning. But it was team wide early as the Bulls were in the foul penalty less than three minutes into the first quarter with three turnovers in the first five possessions. After leading 9-8, the Nets hit the Bulls with a 16-2 run. The Bulls fell into some old habits with slow play and quick shots as the Nets led 30-16. But the Bulls closed the quarter adroitly with Butler making a pair of threes, the last after an artistic crossover move, and Michael Carter-Williams added another. It was 32-25 Nets after one quarter. Butler had 10 points to offset the Bulls six turnovers. But the Nets were outhustling the Bulls with 10 inside points and eight second chance points. The Nets looked like they were going to pull away like the Knicks did earlier in the week scoring seven straight to start the second for a 39-25 lead. The Bulls regained their balance with coach Fred Hoiberg madly searching for combinations. It was Cristiano Felicio kicking off a 12-0 run with a pair of scores and then a Grant three on a Bobby Portis pass. The Bulls got within 42-39, but then went through another brutal sequence of post up isolation plays that led to three turnovers in six possessions. The Bulls had 13 first half turnovers as the Nets led 51-45 at half. The Bulls had assists on fewer than half their baskets.
Wade’s second half start was much better with hot shooting and the Bulls tightened the defense, the Nets missing seven of their first nine shots of the half. With the ball moving nicely and Grant and Portis making jumpers, the Bulls took their first lead with 5:28 left in the third quarter. Butler added his fourth consecutive three pointer and Grant continued his aggressive play with eight points in the quarter. Butler added 11 in the quarter to give the Bulls an 82-75 lead going into the fourth quarter. With Felicio battling on the boards and Carter-Williams scoring, the Bulls led 88-81 with 8:39 left. The Bulls seemed in control with a 97-88 lead with 4:24 left. But the Nets fired back with a pair of threes from Caris LaVert and with a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fast break with 2:22 left the Nets took a 98-97 lead.