This one Monday looked so good and so welcome for the Bulls that the usually inscrutable Derrick Rose bowed to the Salt Lake City crowd in appreciation and celebration after his three pointer for a 93-90 lead seemed to give the Bulls a victory.
But sometimes it can be a long 18.9 seconds.
Because in that time the Bulls lost a rebound after a missed Gordon Hayward free throw, leading to another Jazz possession and a Hayward tying layup. The Bulls then lost their inbounds pass with 4.8 seconds left when Hayward swatted the ball off Jimmy Butler. Hayward would miss an attempt at a winner in regulation, but then the Bulls would fail to score a field goal in overtime and lose 105-96 to the Jazz.
“Obviously a very tough way to lose that one,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “I felt that we gave it away; we had our chances there. They made the necessary plays to win. They got the momentum right away (in overtime). We talked about that in the huddle, going out and getting the momentum. They hit a couple shots and built off that and (we) just couldn’t get it back.”
And so the long road trip that started with a high in Los Angeles last Thursday began sinking with a second consecutive loss to fall to 26-21. The Bulls thus slip to fifth in the Eastern Conference, tied with Boston and just a game and a half out of eighth with four more games on this road trip. The Bulls are in Sacramento Wednesday. It was the Bulls ninth loss in their last 13 games.
Butler led with 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists, including 10 straight fourth quarter points. But he missed three of four free throws in overtime playing 47 minutes and both his overtime shots, three pointers that missed the rim.
“Nobody cares how I feel,” Butler said about bumping knees and playing the big minutes in the second of a back to back. “I’m supposed to help us win games; minutes, no minutes, I didn’t do my job.
“I think everybody loves this game of basketball; that should always put a smile on everybody’s face,” Butler said about the team as reporters’ questions raised whether this was the crisis and perhaps a team meeting and mirror session was in order. “Everybody loves everybody in this locker room, everybody wants everybody to be successful. I think that’s how you stay positive. You continually have each other’s back, you stay in this together and when you do it’s going to turn around. We’ve got a good team; we’ll figure this thing out.
“I’ve got to play better,” said Butler. “I have to do my job; that’s why they got me here. I haven’t been doing that lately. I have to hit the gym and put in the time. That’s on me. We have to stay in this together; we all lost this game tonight. Not just three people, four people, we all did.”
Actually, the Bulls did play reasonably well other than the usual lingering issues for the team: A lack of offensive production from someone other than The Three with no one else in double figures while Butler and Rose take shots in isolation too often and Gasol frequently.
Still, few others have shown enough consistency and even ability to create shots that without those three the Bulls might not even be in some of these games, this one being a play here or there away from a good road win against a rising, young Jazz team.
Hayward led six Jazz players in double figures with 27 points. Utah is 22-25. They won their third straight for the first time this season.
“At least we gave ourselves a chance, which was something more than we did last night,” said Gasol, referring to the Sunday loss to the Clippers. “Tough in overtime, crunch time and you make certain mistakes. To that point, I think we were playing pretty well and had an opportunity to win. We didn’t make the plays we needed to offensively and they made their plays and they played better that we did and they took the game.
“I don’t worry about the tough, close losses,” said Gasol. “I worry about the losses we should have won and played at a different level and kind of gave away and allowed opponents to win; these (Monday kind of) losses happen in the league in 82 games. Whenever you bring the competitiveness, the effort, the energy, the sense of urgency I am OK with that. I am OK with losing an overtime game. I’m not so OK with losing six or seven or eight games at home against teams that have a worse record than we do.”
Gasol got the Bulls off to a good start, stepping outside for jump shots against Jazz big man Rudy Gobert and scoring 11 points in the first quarter. Gasol was active and when Gobert finally came out to challenge, Gasol made a quick move and drove past for a slam dunk. The Jazz pushed the ball at the Bulls with some success, which enabled the Bulls quicker pace but also cost them on the defensive end as the Jazz tied the game at 26 after one quarter.
The Bulls hung an 18-2 run on the Jazz in the second quarter with Gasol making a tough runner at the 24-second clock expiration, Taj Gibson with a follow up slam dunk as Gibson had a team best 11 rebounds and three blocks and E’Twaun Moore starting again closing the half for the Bulls with a runner for a 51-47 lead. The Bulls were shooting a solid 48 percent.
Gasol had 13 points at the half, but the Jazz made their adjustment with Derrick Favors playing him after halftime and chasing outside as well. Gasol had six second half points.
“They switched coverage with bigs and smalls and we didn’t punish them enough for those switches,” said Gasol.
There would be 15 lead changes and 16 ties in a game in which neither team led by double digits. Kirk Hinrich contributed with a pair of charges he drew, Bobby Portis had eight points in 20 minutes and Doug McDermott made one of three on three pointers, though the Bulls continued to shoot them poorly with Nikola Mirotic out after appendix surgery and Mike Dunleavy not back yet. The Bulls were five of 21 on threes for the game. Still, they led 68-67 going into the fourth quarter.
The Jazz got a sky high lob dunk from Gobert with 6:24 left to take a 79-76 lead, but Butler answered with an unlikely fall away corner three. And then Rose and Gasol relieved him with a driving score and jumper, respectively. Hoiberg starting running a nice one/two pick and roll with Rose and Butler which helpd get the Bulls six scores in seven possessions. That gave the Bulls a 90-88 lead when Moore dribbled into a clutch 16 footer for a 90-88 lead with 1:29 left.
But an obviously exhausted Butler was unable to stay in front of Hayward, who drove and tied the game with free throws.
“I think everybody wants the same common goal to win,” said Butler. “We have to figure out a way to make that goal happen. It’s hard to do in this league. No matter who you’re playing against everyone has a team full of NBA players who can really play and tonight was just another example of that.”
The Bulls got a break after Rose missed a three when Gasol threw the ball back to him with a few seconds left on the shot clock as Gobert followed and missed two free throws for the lead with 29.4 seconds left.
Butler still was the obvious Bulls choice to attack with his dozen fourth quarter points. Butler did drive deep into the paint, and then surprisingly threw back out to Rose on the right wing. Rose shot it up right away and made the three even as a 26 percent three-point shooter this season. He took a rare bow to the crowd at center court as the Jazz called time with 18.5 seconds left and the Bulls leading 93-90.
It was all Hayward all the time by this time and he drove and was fouled. He missed the second. Gibson was in position, but was beaten to the ball by Chris Johnson as it bounced out to the right corner. If the Bulls get the ball, the Jazz have to foul and if the Bulls make free throws they maintain a four-point lead. Gibson walked to the bench obviously distraught with his hands on his head.
“Being careless with the ball, not doing what we were supposed to be doing; that’s how we‘ve been playing lately,” said Butler. “That’s the way it’s been going and the same outcome is what we’ve gotten.”
Hayward scored on a drive for a layup and tie at 93 with 4.8 seconds left. The Bulls never got a chance to go for the win when Hayward knocked Rose’s inbounds pass off Butler and out of bounds. Hayward got open for a regulation winner but missed.
The Jazz rarely did in overtime as Gasol, Gibson and then Rose committed turnovers, though the Bulls still trailed 97-95 with 2:22 left. But then after a Hayward score Butler missed three of four free throws and the Jazz eased to the win.
“I think that we came out and played hard, we competed,” said Rose. “We didn’t have discipline on a couple of occasions out there. You’re not going to play your best every night. We try to give that effort. We thought we had it at regulation, but they made some great plays and they have a great young team. It felt like we were supposed to win this game.”