Chicago Bulls get close, but can't finish off Raptors
The Bulls experienced 48 hours of disappointment, losing close games to strong opponents on back-to-back nights. You could even stretch it out to Friday's 2-point loss to Golden State to paint a more gut-wrenching picture.
On Monday night at the United Center, the Bulls had another chance to record their first victory of the season over a team with a winning record. Trailing Toronto by 1 in the final seconds, Zach LaVine missed a runner in traffic, the rebound was knocked away and the Bulls lost 93-92 to the defending champs.
For a young team like the Bulls, desperate for some sort of progress, though, the past two nights were an encouraging sign. On Sunday, they lost in overtime at Miami after leading for most of the fourth quarter. These past 2 losses suggest the Bulls are getting closer to a breakthrough.
Coach Jim Boylen delivered a passionate defense of his squad after the game when asked why he believes the Bulls can eventually break through with some quality wins.
"I coach by faith. I coach and teach every day on where I think we're going to be," Boylen said. "When that's going to happen, I'm not sure. We are playing good, hard basketball. We've got to win two or three possessions. One more defensive rebound, one more loose ball, one more open 3. That's the difference in this, and I'm not going to let any negativity to deter us from that mission."
After a defensive stop, the Bulls took possession with 8.1 seconds left trailing by 1. Against Golden State last week, Zach LaVine pulled up for a 3-pointer while down by 2.
This time, he took it to the rim but found 7-foot Marc Gasol standing in the way and his runner in traffic wasn't close. Rookie Daniel Gafford had both hands on the rebound, but it was knocked away as time expired.
There was some talk after the game that LaVine should have passed it to Gafford when Gasol stepped over to help. But there was nothing on the replay to suggest a pass to Gafford was a good idea. Toronto forward OG Anunoby sprinted over quickly to cover Gafford, so there wasn't much time or space to get the ball to him.
"Just be aggressive, put the ball in his hands, trust him with it," Boylen said. "Trying to get fouled, trying to get something good going to the rim. It's a shot he can make. We trust him with the ball in his hands; he's delivered before and we'll trust him again."
LaVine scored all 20 of his points in the first half and went 0-for-6 from the field after halftime. Six Bulls finished in double figures.
The Bulls (8-17) took the lead twice in the final two minutes, first on a corner 3-pointer by Lauri Markkanen that made it 90-89, then Gafford followed in his own miss with 1:06 left. Toronto right back as point guard drove past Tomas Satoransky, knocked Gafford over, and finished a lay-in.
A makeshift lineup featuring Satoransky, Denzel Valentine, Coby White, Thad Young and Gafford opened the fourth quarter with a 14-6 run. Satoransky came back early when Kris Dunn picked up his fifth foul and played the entire fourth. Gafford also came back to finish the game after Wendell Carter Jr. fouled out.
The Bulls shot the ball poorly from long range most of the night, but Young, Valentine and Dunn drained three in a row late in the third quarter to give the Bulls a boost. They opened an 85-77 lead with 7:56 on an impressive lob dunk from Valentine to Gafford.
Monday's attendance was listed as 14,775, which means it replaced last Wednesday's game against Memphis as the smallest home crowd of the last 15 years.
"It's disappointing when we don't win home games," Boylen said. "Nobody's running from that. This team is playing hard and they're competing and they're learning and their growing. I think people can see that, too. I love the way our defense has grown since the opening five games. I thought we had a lot of really good looks tonight that we can make. The ball was popping, the ball was moving."
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