After being behind for most of the game, the result looked to be swinging back in the Bulls favor in the 3rd quarter as strong play from Zach LaVine & Tomas Satoransky tied the ball game for the Bulls, but down the stretch the Warriors hit a number of big 3s to pull away and leave the Bulls with a lot to ponder on Thanksgiving.
You'll excuse the Golden State Warriors if they celebrated Thanksgiving a few hours early in their 104-90 victory Wednesday over the Bulls. After all, it looked like there was a turkey to be carved and plenty of stuffing to do in a contest that became gravy for the Warriors as they mashed the Bulls on the boards and down the stretch with a decisive 16-2 run to harvest a rare win.
For the Bulls, 6-13, it had to be a sickening feeling to watch these new Warriors pilgrims in the shrine of the three-time champions feasting as they did on the Bulls.
"Every loss you should be upset about," said Zach LaVine, who this time only almost rescued the Bulls with 36 points and four of nine three pointers. "I don't think you should be ashamed about any loss. You should be upset every time you lose a game. I'm upset if we lose to the worst team or best team in the league. If you lose by one or 25, it's still an L. These are still the Golden State Warriors. They have championship class, championship coaching; they still have veteran players. There's no shame; they still play their game."
Well, okay, but this may leave you nauseous.
If you're in the NBA, we always hear, you're an NBA player and deserve to be there. Everyone who's gotten there has been great someplace and sometime, and usually often. But with only Draymond Green playing from their championship run with 10 new players as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, among others, recover from injuries, the Warriors feature a team of players you mostly never heard of or didn't know still were in the NBA.
Alec Burks was with three teams last season and almost had a triple double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. There's no way you knew before Wednesday the locations of Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman. They were each in double figures combining for 24 points and 10 of 16 shooting. In the rookie matchup, second rounder Eric Paschall had 25 points and seven rebounds and Coby White had two points on zero for seven shooting.
Tomas Satoransky gave LaVine some support with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, making three of five threes. But no other Bull scored in double figures, the Bulls were dominated on the boards again, this time 54-42, and the Warriors blocked nine shots. The Bulls were active forcing turnovers again with 14 steals and 21 Warriors turnovers for 28 points.
But that merely underscored their offensive failings as Bulls coach Jim Boylen opted for a defensive game down the stretch. It left LaVine as the main offensive option. LaVine almost won another with nine straight points midway through the fourth quarter to bring the Bulls within 86-83 with 5:44 left. The Bulls forced another turnover. With a chance to tie, Satoransky tried a lob that became a turnover. The Warriors came back with a score, Wendell Carter Jr. was fouled but missed both free throws, and then the Warriors broke open the game with three straight three-point field goals to start a 13-2 run and send the Bulls to perhaps the worst of many early worst defeats.
"The three threes they hit made us panic in our offense and we didn't create good shots," said Satoransky. "They played really hard and there was a moment they outplayed us."
The Warriors were the league's bottom ranked defensive team coming into the game and held the Bulls to their opponent season low points. Boylen pointed to Kris Dunn fouling out with 6:06 remaining as a turning point for the defensive pressure the Bulls hoped would carry the night.
But at the same time Boylen kept out Lauri Markkanen, who didn't play in the fourth quarter until the Bulls trailed by a dozen points with three minutes remaining. Markkanen had eight points in 25 minutes with a team best plus-four in the plus/minus statistic.
"I thought Thad (Young with six points on two of seven shooting and a team high minus 20) had a really good run, so we extended his run," Boylen explained.
"The last five minutes they had the last spurt of the game and they made three threes in a row and blew the game open, so give them credit for that," said Boylen. "I thought we battled. I thought we played really hard. I felt the team that got the last spurt was going to win the game and they got the last spurt. But I thought we played hard and were very competitive. We had some really good moments and we battled. It was a physical, hard fought game. They made some plays at the end and we didn't, and that was the difference.
"There's no shame in this game tonight," said Boylen. "We played hard and we competed and we battled. And we're going do the same thing (Friday in Portland). We‘re going to practice tomorrow, we're going to have some turkey and we're going to play Friday. This is not the defining moment of our season; we'll keep playing."
And sure, it's just one, and it could have flipped to the Bulls on numerous occasions. And it's early and all that as we've heard for the last month or so. And there have been circumstances. Like Otto Porter Jr. still out and Chandler Hutchison injuring his shoulder two minutes into the game. Luke Kornet returned and 13 players got minutes in a game that seemed like one that despite a 13-point second quarter deficit the Bulls would survive.
After all, this was a potpourri Warriors team of a curious mixture of spicy has beens and blooming unknowns taking the beatings this season from everyone who faded, fizzled and was frazzled by the Warriors running and shooting dance the last five seasons. The Warriors were losing by an average of almost nine points per game, second most in the league, and had a 48-point loss and five others by at least 20 points. Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole were paying for the sins of the fathers of the modern high scoring and fast shooting era.
"They played harder than us," LaVine observed in perhaps the greatest indictment. "We knew they were going to come in and play hard. We fought back. They just made a big time run at the end of the game when it got close. Kris Dunn fouled out; that really hurt us defensively. He helps us out more than you know. Then they went on a run. They did their job; they hit tough shots. They still have a big time leader out there in Draymond and they have dudes who are hungry; they are playing for spots."
Thats also supposed to be the script for the Bulls, but it didn't read clearly this time.
It seemed like it might with a 9-1 start for the Bulls on LaVine and Markkanen threes, and then a powerful LaVine slam dunk, one of a half dozen. But Carter got his usual two early fouls and the Warriors attacked the backboards and hit the Bulls with a 10-0 run.
LaVine with a Breakaway Dunk Early in the Game
"They are a physical team and I thought in the first quarter that shook us a little bit," said Boylen. "Then I thought we got the game under control and we battled back and had a hell of a second quarter and came out in the third and I thought we battled. Six minutes to go it was a five-point game."
The Warriors led 25-17 after one quarter as Boylen cycled through 11 players in the quarter. And after four shots in the first six minutes, Markkanen got only one the rest of the half. It didn't matter as LaVine had one of those brilliant runs no one else on the roster can even fantasize about. He had 15 straight Bulls points in one stretch, 18 of the team's 31 in the second quarter as the Bulls got within a basket after trailing by 13 and trailed 53-48 at halftime.
"Zach was great," Boylen said.
The Warriors noticed, also, so they began to double team and trap LaVine to force him to pass. It enabled the Warriors to creep ahead several times, only for the Bulls to make a run, once with a Markkanen rebound and dunk. And then with Satorasky getting free with the extra attention to LaVine.
"They are one of the teams their record is not good, but they keep playing and playing," noted Satoransky. "Keep moving the ball, keep fighting and keep playing for each other. When we came back it was our defense that did that. We had some open transition layups and threes and just didn't make the right stop at the right time."
LaVine had a pair of driving layups late in the third quarter as he slipped through multiple defenders and the Bulls tied the game at 71 with 1:48 left. You figured the Warriors wanna bes would fade. Golden State led 78-73 after three and then scored the first four points of the fourth quarter. LaVine made his run to get the Bulls within 86-83 with 5:44 left. The Bulls gambled they could endure with a defensive oriented group playing Young, Carter and Satoransky and the struggling White with LaVine after Dunn fouled out. The Warriors then put the whipped cream on their sweet finish with those closing threes.
"This can flip at any time," insisted LaVine. "You just have to be confident and think that way; you can't think negatively. You have to psych yourself up to get out of a rut sometimes and I think that's what we're in now, a little bit of a rut. But I still believe we can get ourselves out of it."
Because you dig much deeper and everyone knows what that becomes.