The Chicago Bulls fell short Sunday in the second night of a back-to-back with an overtime buzzer-beater loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The 123-122 loss dropped the Bulls to an 11-15 record as the team remains stagnant at 11th overall in the Eastern Conference.
Here are seven takeaways from the game.
1. After two clutch wins, Bulls are still 3-9 in close games.
The Bulls seemed poised to win their fourth clutch game of the season in overtime against the Hawks, but AJ Griffin crushed those hopes with a game-winning alley-oop at the buzzer on an inbounds lob from Jalen Johnson to cut the comeback one point short.
Despite forcing overtime, the Bulls failed to close another clutch game, which is defined in the NBA as any game with a margin of five or fewer points in the final five minutes.
The Bulls were improving in this department, winning their last two clutch games after starting 1-8 in these situations. But the team’s capacity to clinch games is becoming an Achilles heel as the Bulls sink further into a losing record over a quarter of the way into the season.
2. DeMar DeRozan’s signature game-changing offense in the fourth quarter continues.
Despite the loss, DeMar DeRozan added another page to the growing mythos of his dominance in the final minutes of games. DeRozan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Bulls their first lead since the second quarter with 3:32 remaining in regulation.
With a half-second of overtime remaining, DeRozan earned a rare 3-point shooting foul off guard Bogdan Bogdanović and sank all three free throws to give the Bulls a one-point lead that seemed to be enough.
“I had a coach tell me that until the clock hits 00:00:00, it ain’t over,” DeRozan said after the loss.
The loss served as another reminder that DeRozan can’t do it all to close games for the Bulls, a lesson the team still hasn’t fully learned.
3. Derrick Jones Jr. provides a vital spark off the bench, including the game-tying free throws to force overtime.
When DeRozan missed a potential game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds to play, it was backup forward Derrick Jones Jr. who came to the rescue by snagging a rebound and getting fouled.
Jones’ heroics were dampened when he missed his second free throw, which could have been the go-ahead point to avoid overtime entirely.
But the game was still a highlight for the backup forward, who has been quietly consistent behind Patrick Williams and Javonte Green. Jones finished with 14 points, two assists, two steals and three blocks in a strong defensive performance.
4. Bulls give up 23 points off 18 turnovers in another night of careless ball protection.
The Bulls fell into a midgame slump as they gave up 23 points on 18 turnovers in a careless night of ball protection. Zach LaVine accounted for seven of those turnovers as the star guard struggled with careless passes into the post throughout the night.
The Hawks suffered a similarly sloppy night — giving up 17 points on 15 turnovers — which allowed the Bulls to maintain proximity despite their own ball protection. But as a team built on turnovers and forcing the game into transition, the Bulls can’t afford to give up more turnovers than their opponents — especially against a strong 3-point shooting unit.
5. Bulls regress to 3-point shooting norm after a promising night against the Mavericks.
After a scorching night of shooting against the Mavericks, the Bulls regressed to the mean in Atlanta with a low volume night from 3-point range. The Bulls went 7-for-27 from behind the arc, dropping slightly below their league-low average of 28.6 attempts per game.
Neither team shot at a highly efficient rate (the Hawks were 33.3% behind the arc, the Bulls were 25.9%) but the Hawks made nearly double the shots, outshooting the Bulls 39-21 from long range. This is becoming refrain for the Bulls — it will be impossible to beat opponents while giving up this type of margin from 3-point range.
6. Ayo Dosunmu suffers an abdominal injury in the second quarter, raising concerns for guard unit.
The Bulls took a blow in the second quarter when Ayo Dosunmu exited the game after attempting to score a layup in transition over Hawks guard Trae Young.
Dosunmu went parallel to the court in midair as he collided with the Hawks guard and fell on top of Young’s knee as he tumbled to the hardwood, suffering an abdominal contusion in the collision.
It’s unclear whether Dosunmu will be able to return to the court later this week. This creates a new concern for the point guard unit after Alex Caruso was sidelined with a tailbone contusion in the Mavericks game. Without either guard available, the Bulls closed with guard Coby White against the Hawks.
7. Javonte Green makes his return following knee injury, but doesn’t immediately retake place in the starting rotation.
Javonte Green returned in the second quarter after missing two games with a bone bruise in his right knee. Coach Billy Donovan previously said he planned to move the power forward back into the starting lineup once he was fully healthy to replace Williams, but Green played less than 15 minutes as he eased back into the rotation.
Green finished with two points, three rebounds and four turnovers. Williams tallied eight points and seven assists in the loss, but neither player was selected to close the game. Instead, Donovan opted for Jones to join the closing unit for the final minutes of regulation and overtime.
Here’s the recap from Sunday’s loss.
The Chicago Bulls still are struggling in the clutch.
After a sloppy night of ballhandling, the Bulls found themselves behind in the final five minutes of regulation Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. And despite forcing overtime with a 10-point comeback — and even taking a one-point lead with 0.5 seconds left in overtime — the Bulls couldn’t close in a 123-122 loss on AJ Griffin’s alley-oop at the buzzer.
The Bulls are now 3-9 in clutch games, which the NBA defines as games with a margin of five or fewer points in the final five minutes.
DeMar DeRozan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Bulls their first lead since the second quarter with 3:32 remaining in regulation. But when DeRozan missed a potential game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds to play, it was backup forward Derrick Jones Jr. who came to the rescue by snagging a rebound and getting fouled.
The effort only prolonged the inevitable for the Bulls. Jones missed the second free throw and the game went to overtime, where DeRozan appeared ready once more to win the game after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.5 seconds remaining and sinking all three free throws for a 122-121 lead.
But Griffin answered with his game-winner on an inbounds lob from Jalen Johnson.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 34 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Jones finished with 14 points and closed the game alongside Coby White, who added 12 points off the bench. Andre Drummond contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and five steals off the bench.
Bogdan Bogdanović led the Hawks with 28 points, including six 3-pointers.
The loss was the second game of a back-to-back for the Bulls, who beat the Dallas Mavericks at home Saturday night before flying to Atlanta. It was the second back-to-back of the season for Zach LaVine, who sat out at least one game of the first three back-to-backs as he ramped back up from offseason knee surgery.
LaVine scored 21 points but struggled to control the ball in the first half and logged seven turnovers on the night. After a strong first quarter, the Bulls fell into a midgame slump and wound up allowing 23 points on 18 turnovers in a careless night of ball protection.
Javonte Green returned in the second quarter after missing three games with a bone bruise in his right knee. Coach Billy Donovan previously said he planned to move the power forward back into the starting lineup in place of Patrick Williams once he was fully healthy, but Green played less than 15 minutes as he eased back into the rotation. He finished with two points, three rebounds and four turnovers.
The Bulls took a blow in the second quarter when Ayo Dosunmu exited after attempting to make a layup in transition over Hawks guard Trae Young. Dosunmu fell on top of Young’s knee as he tumbled to the hardwood, suffering an abdominal bruise.
It’s unclear whether Dosunmu will be able to return later this week, which creates a new concern at point guard after Alex Caruso was sidelined with a tailbone injury in the Mavericks game.