Dinwiddie comes back to haunt Bulls in loss to Brooklyn
The Bulls can still make the playoffs by winning their final two games, but it sure would be ironic if this scenario ruined their season.
With the score tied and 31.7 seconds remaining Saturday, the Brooklyn Nets' late-game strategy was to isolate Spencer Dinwiddie against Dwyane Wade.
Dinwiddie was cut by the Bulls in preseason and later signed by Brooklyn off the Windy City Bulls roster. Wade, the 12-time all-star, was playing for the first time since suffering an elbow injury on Mar. 15.
Dinwiddie went on the attack and drew a foul on the 35-year-old Wade. Dinwiddie's free throws with 13.6 seconds on the clock turned out to be the difference in Brooklyn's 107-106 victory over the Bulls at the Barclays Center.
The Bulls somehow blew a 9-point lead in the final 4:24 against the team with the worst record in the NBA.
"We're still in this thing," Jimmy Butler told reporters after the game. "They're a good team. They've been playing as well as anybody. They've got guys who played incredibly hard. We lost, there's nothing we can really do about it right now. We have to go get better. We were saying how we needed to get this one today and now we need these next two (games)."
It's a stretch to say the Nets (20-60) are playing as well as anybody, but they are 11-11 since Mar. 1, around the same time point guard Jeremy Lin came back from a hamstring injury.
There are several developments for the playoff race. Miami won a close game in Washington on Saturday, so the Bulls and Heat are now tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Bulls would win a tiebreaker against Miami, though, so they still control their own destiny. The Bulls can clinch a playoff spot by beating Orlando and Brooklyn in their final two games at the United Center.
Indiana won in Orlando, so the Pacers (40-40) moved ahead of the Bulls and into seventh place in the East. Milwaukee (41-39) won at Philadelphia, eliminating any chance of the Bulls finishing sixth. The Bucks and Atlanta both clinched playoff spots Saturday.
Trailing by 2 in the waning seconds, Jimmy Butler settled on a tough jumper in the corner, over the long arm of Nets center Brook Lopez. Butler appeared to be behind the 3-point line, even though the shot wasn't called a 3 in the official scoring. Dinwiddie was fouled and added 2 more free throws to put Brooklyn up by 4 before Butler hit a 3 at the buzzer to complete the scoring.
It's tough to fault Butler for this one. He scored a game-high 33 points and went 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line.
Wade had his moments, producing 14 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes. He scored 6 straight points midway through the fourth quarter to seemingly put the Bulls in command.
"Elbow felt cool," Wade said. "It's just my legs. I'm trying to get my legs back and my wind back."
The game appeared to be as good as over when Nikola Mirotic finished a lay in and 3-point play to put the Bulls ahead 97-88 with 4:24 remaining.
Brooklyn's Caris LeVert hit a 3-pointer, Michael Carter-Williams couldn't finish a point-blank drive to the basket and then came the killer. Off a Nets turnover, the Bulls came down on a 2-on-1 break, but trying to hit Butler on an alley-oop, Mirotic threw a bullet pass that was nearly impossible for Butler to control.
The Nets came back and LeVert hit another 3 to bring Brooklyn within 97-94. While the Bulls missed 3 shots in a row, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored twice on driving layins and suddenly the Nets led 98-97 with 2:21 left.
Butler answered with a jumper and 2 free throws to put the Bulls up by 3. But on the next trip, they doubled-teamed Brook Lopez, leaving Dinwiddie wide open to knock down the tying 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining. After a Butler miss, Hollis-Jefferson drove to the basket again and drew a foul, giving Brooklyn a 2-point lead.
Butler knocked down a clutch 20-foot step-back jumper to tie the score and set the stage for Dinwiddie's heroics.
LeVert and Dinwiddie scored 19 points each to lead the Nets. Several Bulls had rough nights, led by Mirotic (1-for-9 from the field) and Carter-Williams (2-for-10). Jerian Grant (15 points, 5 assists) played well starting in place of Rajon Rondo (wrist) for the second straight game.
The most glaring entries on the stat sheet might have been the Bulls finishing with just 14 assists, compared to 17 turnovers.
There was an interesting development in the sibling rivalry. This was the first time Bulls center Robin Lopez outscored twin brother Brook in a head-to-head NBA matchup. Robin won this battle 16-13, the 17th time they've played against each other as pros. Their first meeting on Nov. 4, 2008 ended in a 2-2 tie.
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