The Bulls were plus-21 in the turnover margin but was unable to consistently take advantage of those opportunities, falling to the Brooklyn Nets 110-107.
From George Washington in the Revolutionary War against the British to the Dodgers against the Yankees and Giants to my high school dating experiences to the Bulls Sunday in their 110-107 loss to the Nets, Brooklyn may just be where dreams and hopes go to die.
The Bulls with yet another don't-change-the-station fourth quarter tumult, nevertheless, fell to 21-43 with their 13th loss in the last 15 games, and perhaps most significantly eight games behind Orlando for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot with 18 games remaining.
The plucky if not always proficient Bulls chased a 13-point deficit with 3:08 remaining down to a three-point Brooklyn lead with 15.3 seconds left when the Bulls forced yet another turnover, the Nets' shocking 29th. In a curious interpretation, Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn said the basketballs were unusually slippery. Newer, and presumably stickier, balls were substituted. No wonder the Nets had to change coaches Saturday despite being seventh in the East without their two best players.
The Bulls got a timeout and ran a sweet play to get Coby White a wide open three for the tie.
Shaquille Harrison cleared from the top. Lauri Markkanen popped out for the inbounds pass from White and handed back to White coming around from the left side over Markkanen's screen. The Nets switched. But Taurean Prince was slow to recognize White's range as White took one dribble. White from 30 feet straight on shot over Prince and the ball went in…hitting the left side of the rim, the front of the rim and then the back of the rim. And then popped out to Thaddeus Young, who lost the ball out of bounds.
"I thought it was in," said White, who had 21 points off the bench for his seventh game of at least 20 in the last eight (19 in the other). White also had eight assists and six rebounds
"I thought it was cash. Went in and out; that's (tough)," said White. "It looked good. I mean, yeah, I think everybody in the building thought it was going in. In and out. If it went in, it would have been great. It didn't."
Chuck Swirsky with BullsTV recaps tonight's loss to the Brooklyn Nets
Another familiar chapter in this oh so disappointing Bulls season.
Brooklyn inbounded to former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie, who led the Nets with 24 points. He made the second of two free throws for a 108-104 Nets lead with 3.6 seconds left.
And yet again in one of the more fantastic finishes, the Bulls got another three, this time from Otto Porter Jr., who led the Bulls with 23 points off the bench. Markkanen inbounded to Porter on the right side, opposite from where the previous play came. Porter came right toward the ball around stagger screens from White and Young. Porter went up for a 27 footer that banked in to bring the Bulls within one point at 108-107 with fourth tenths of a second left. It was the Bulls fifth three pointer in the last three minutes, though the Bulls overall were 12 of 34 on threes.
"We know one thing that anybody who plays us or any head coach never questions how hard we play," said White. "Every night we come out and play hard. One through whoever plays, we go out there and play hard. We put ourselves in position to win and even with everything we went through during the course of the game, we still had a chance to win."
Another crazy close like December in Washington when the Wizards fouled when all they had to do was deny an inbounds? There was a whistle. Offensive foul? The officials went to recheck, but Shaquille Harrison had fouled Dinwiddie. Harrison had clearly hooked Dinwiddie, who made both free throws when missing the second would have ended the game. Must have gone to my high school. The Bulls inbounds pass went to the Nets to end the game.
"I thought we battled the whole game," said Boylen. "We were fighting uphill, but I thought our spirit was really good. I thought we had opportunities that were really good opportunities. Coby was terrific. Lauri (16 points and just eight shots with four of five threes) was active and moving around. Thaddeus (17 points) kind of held it together for us in the third quarter (with seven straight points when Brooklyn took a 13-point lead). A lot of good things. We made some big shots down the stretch to make it a one-possession game. We gave ourselves a chance but didn't make enough plays at the end of the day."
That's a familiar review, and perhaps it now becomes time for another view.
Boylen last week finally cracked open the door the fan base has been trying to beat down the last few months to see White as a starter, especially with Zach LaVine. LaVine could return from a quad strain Tuesday at home against Cleveland. The Bulls go to Florida for two games after that and have the third toughest schedule remaining by virtue of opponent records.
"With Coby is there a point in time where he starts?" Boylen repeated in response to varying inquiries last week at practice "I think that day is probably coming. And is there a time when we look at the development side of this? We've talked all year about developing and winning. Is that day coming? I would say, 'Yes, probably.' When, I'm not exactly sure."
Coby White finished with 21 points off the bench.
It could be time, though White isn't quite ready.
"Right now we're just seeing what happens," said White. "If that's the road that we take, then that's the road that we take. At the end of the day, we just want to try to win some games and try to make one last push. But, like I said, we've just got to finish strong."
Though it would seem the best chance of finishing strong would be to start the best players. That would include Porter, who continued to come off the bench in his fourth game back after missing most of the season with a fractured foot. White reiterated it doesn't matter to him if he starts, though he played 35 minutes and just a few seconds fewer than leader Harrison. Porter says he's following medical protocol even as he played 25 minutes.
"My body still is trying to catch up to my mind," said Porter. "Overall just one day at a time. Talked to the trainers. What's the best way to bring me back without sitting me down for a long time? Everything was planned. When I'm ready, I'll be ready."
No one wants to rush or push Porter. But he is playing starter minutes already and the Bulls again had most of their best players coming off the bench with a ridiculous 65 points off the bench.
Harrison had another furious effort with eight rebounds, a block and four steals. But he was the only Bull to play the entire fourth quarter. He's probably a keeper, but not quite the future. With Porter getting regular playing time, White among the league's top guards since the All-Star break, Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. back and starting and LaVine perhaps returning Tuesday, there's finally a chance to see the presumed starting five of the future. Or at least next season's.
Tomas Satoransky has been slumping since the All-Star break, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 17 percent on threes. He shot one of seven Sunday with one assist in 25 minutes Sunday. Denzel Valentine added nine points starting again, but likely as a placeholder for LaVine.
Is it finally time to see what the Bulls have for next season and beyond? It certainly would be interesting.
Which it wasn't again most of the first half as the Nets closed the half with a 22-9 run behind Dinwiddie for a 58-50 halftime lead.
"They're just one of the better teams in terms of forcing you to play at more of a frantic pace and turning teams over," said the Nets Joe Harris, who scored 23. "So I think it's more of a testament to them than anything we did (regarding turnovers)."
Shaq Harrison played the entire fourth quarter and finished with four steals.
Especially with Harrison, who has assumed the Kris Dunn role, the Bulls were relentless with their traps, causing nine first quarter turnovers for a 23-22 lead. The Nets gained poise in the second quarter with the scoring of Chris LaVert, who also finished with 23 points. The Bulls have been among the league leaders all season in steals and forcing turnovers, which hasn't translated to wins. Even as the Bulls had just seven turnovers Sunday and a turnover margin of plus-21.
"We complained that (the ball) was a little bit too slippery, and Chicago did, too, and they changed the ball," said Vaughn. "I think that was the first seven (turnovers). The other 21, we'll have to look."
You know, like there's this bridge you might be interested in buying.
The problem for the Bulls also is by trapping and pressuring to cause steals, a positive, the Bulls often aren't in good rebounding position. The Nets had the size with DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen. The Nets had a 50-31 rebounding edge, predictably dominating the defensive boards. Daniel Gafford fouled out in 16 minutes in relief of Carter. Jordan had 15 rebounds in 29 minutes; the Bulls five starters totaled 17 rebounds in 137 minutes.
The Nets held off the Bulls in the third quarter, though the Bulls starters combined for just two baskets and the Bulls missed all seven threes. Young's late third quarter surge taking advantage of former Bull Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot enabled the Bulls to stay within 77-70 after three.
The Nets began to stretch out their lead most of the fourth quarter until the Bulls closed with White, Markkanen, Young and Porter. Who put on a heck of a show as the "reserves" had twice as many fourth quarter field goals as the starters.
"It's been multiple games where we've forced their hand at the end," said White. "We came together and just decided like always, we never quit fighting. We had a chance to win; that's what we do."
But will it be from the start? Or as we used to say about the Dodgers, "Wait 'til next year?"