Zach LaVine hit a pullup jumper with five seconds remaining to give the Bulls a two-point lead, but it proved to be too much time as Golden State's Damion Lee hit a game-winning triple to give the Warriors the 129-198 win over Chicago on Sunday night.
This time the Bulls were the better team; they also were the losing team, stunned Sunday with 1.7 seconds left on a three pointer by someone hardly anyone had heard of, Drexel legend Damion Lee, that gave the Golden State Warriors a 129-128 victory.
"The first two games we just did not play well," said Wendell Carter, who reemerged with a double/double and one of four Bulls to score at least 20 points. "I felt like we played really well and then coming down to that last two, three possessions, we feel like we did everything we could. So I feel like definitely this third loss is definitely the worst of them all because we came out (and) played the game that we were supposed to play."
Sliced through like they were warm butter by the Atlanta Hawks and Indiana Pacers, the Bulls finally stood tall at the basket and had a 46-36 lead on inside points. The Bulls won in second chance points and rebounds and even outshot the shootingest team in NBA history from three point range, making 17 of 41 for 42 percent. The Bulls not only chased Stephen Curry into a very inefficient 25 shots for 36 points and five of 15 threes, but following a Zach LaVine nine foot "winner" with five seconds left, the Bulls smothered Curry to force the play to the undrafted veteran G-leaguer.
Who dropped in the winning three for a Warriors team that had lost its first two games by a combined 65 points.
Golden State's Damion Lee scores the game-winning three.
"I guess you gotta go through some trials and tribulations to get where you're going," philosophized LaVine, who led the Bulls with 33 points. "I don't think anyone cares if we played better. It felt good that we were in the game and competing. Realistically the last couple of games we haven't been able to play into the fourth quarter. It is frustrating because we had a good game, but it wasn't good enough to pull out the victory."
And so the Bulls dropped to 0-3 in their three home games to start the season. They face the 0-3 Wizards in Washington Tuesday and Thursday before the second of the back to back in Milwaukee New Year's Day. Still, it's progress of a fashion following the distasteful opening losses in which the Bulls afterward were asked to not use the word competing.
They did this time, mostly controlling the game despite 20 lead changes and ties. The Bulls led almost the entire second half and by 121-112 with a Warriors timeout with 3:58 left. But then Curry, shooting poorly much of the game as the Bulls trapped and overplayed him well, made a three. That kicked off a run of 10 Curry points in the next three minutes. Still, the Bulls led 126-124 after a Curry driving three-point play with 46 seconds left. It would prove critical as Bulls coach Billy Donovan used what would be his last timeout on a challenge. It failed, leaving the Bulls a 60-foot Tomas Satoransky heave after Lee's winner.
Perhaps the crucial play, however, was Kevon Looney's rebound basket to tie the game at 126 with 16.9 seconds left, a second offensive rebound after an Andrew Wiggins miss. Then came LaVine's drive and pullup that coulda, shoulda been the winner.
Zach LaVine scored 33 points on 11-of-23 shooting against Golden State.
It was all Bulls... until it wasn't.
Golden State is without the injured Klay Thompson for the season and Draymond Green still is out injured for this trip. It was virtually a new starting lineup for the recently dynastic Warriors with rookie James Wiseman at center, Juan Toscano-Anderson from the Mexican leagues—who knew?—and Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins with Curry.
"It felt a couple times like the Bulls were going to pull away," admitted Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
Because the Bulls were getting the expected performances from their core regulars.
Coby White had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists with four of nine threes to go along with LaVine's 33 as White frequently played off the ball and was in scoring mode primarily. LaVine ran offense frequently, and though he had seven turnovers (among the Bulls dastardly 24 as pressure burst their pipes at times) he combined with Carter in two-player games repeatedly for scores down the stretch. Carter had the team's first double/double and his first three pointer of the season with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Carter made eight of nine shots. Let the big man eat!
Wendell Carter Jr. put up his first double-double of the season, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 boards in the Sunday night loss to Golden State.
"I feel like I just got to my spots, took the same shots I've been taking," said Carter, who staggered through the opening games. "Just simply making myself available. Taking the load off Zach, Coby, Lauri (Markkanen), just making sure teams know that I'm a threat also on the offensive end."
The old and improved Markkanen remained one of the rare consistent offensive threats in these three games with 23 points and seven rebounds, making four of seven three pointers. It was the first time in almost four years the Bulls had four 20-point scorers in the same game. But Markkanen sustained a calf contusion late in the game on a collision and had to leave. Donovan said Markkanen would be reevaluated before the team left for Washington Monday.
Bulls rookie Patrick Williams again wasn't much involved in the offense as Donovan more frequently looked in the fourth quarter to veterans Garrett Temple, Otto Porter Jr. and Satoransky. LaVine matched Curry's 13 fourth quarter points as they were the only two scoring in double digits in the period. The Bulls also got an active contribution from Chandler Hutchison, who had seven points and eight rebounds and played almost seven minutes in the fourth. Donovan didn't use Williams in the closing group in a finally contested fourth quarter. Williams had six points and didn't have a field goal in the second half.
"I think the losing really has to hurt them," said Donovan in talking about his team. "I mean that in a healthy way because they put a lot into it tonight. I thought we responded a lot better to those situations (against runs). I thought defensively we battled and competed. We protected the paint a lot better. Obviously, the last play, you know it's going to Curry and it was. We wanted to do everything we could to take it out of Steph's hands late. He made a really, really tough shot. But in terms of the things that we talked about, the competing part of it, I really thought our guys gave it up tonight in a good way. It's unfortunate when you do that and you fall short."
White didn't seem to worry so much about a facilitating role to start the game, scoring on a pair of drives and then the Bulls made a late run for a 27-24 first quarter lead. Donovan as he's been doing, subbed out Markkanen early and then returned him to play more center. Markkanen was appropriately aggressive seeking out mismatches against the smaller Warriors. Carter also became more active offensively after anonymous appearances the first two games. He scored in three consecutive possessions in the second quarter rolling to the rim and on a short jumper, mostly eschewing the threes.
Coby White scored a season-high 20 points in the loss.
The Warriors took a 60-56 halftime lead speeding up the game going small, though the Bulls continued to harass Curry, who was one of six on threes at half. Much easier to shoot for TV with no one defense. That had been the Bulls before Sunday.
The Bulls appeared to take control with a 9-0 run to begin the second half, LaVine driving and Carter rolling. It was 83-73 Bulls midway through the quarter on Carter's three from the left corner, 97-93 Bulls after three and then an 8-0 Bulls run when the Warriors tied it at 100 early in the fourth. The Bulls seemed to always have an answer. Until those late questions.
"Hindsight's 20-20," Donovan acknowledged. "I would've liked to have a timeout in my pocket. Not to say we could've gotten a shot. Who knows what would've happened? But to have the team have to go the length of the floor and throw something up from half court, maybe you could try to get something, a decent look."
"Yeah I think I shot a little too early as well," LaVine admitted about the apparent winner with five seconds and the score tied. "He started pressuring me, so I just took the opportunity to go. Obviously, you'd rather get a shot up than not and obviously I made it. But I gave them the opportunity to come down and score the last shot of the game. So realistically I wish I shot the ball with like two or three on the clock. Even if I missed it, we still had overtime. So it's upsetting."
But this time there was some fight there. We figured there was; we just didn't see it yet. Though Kerr agreed it's more difficult to get into a competitive mode for the eight teams left out of the Orlando summer games. Most have had the greater struggles.
"This is going to be a process for these guys," said Donovan. "There's some suffering probably in that locker room, including the coaches, too. Because obviously we want to help them as much as we can. But when it gets that painful, that's when I think it becomes that important. I think for what they went through tonight, they can walk off the court with their head held high because of the way they competed. There was a lot of really good things. It was unfortunate we didn't get the result we wanted."
That other really good thing.