Why do Chicago Bulls keep blowing late leads ... and other questions

  • Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen reacts as he watches his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Kings won 98-81.

    Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen reacts as he watches his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The Kings won 98-81.

Updated 1/30/2020 8:02 PM

There seemed to be a pretty solid level of anger after the Bulls blew their latest fourth-quarter lead Wednesday at Indiana.

If you missed it, the Bulls led the Pacers by 7 points with less than three minutes remaining, but they failed to score for the last 4:11 of the fourth quarter and lost in overtime.


As a public service, let's try to mold the negative tweets into a virtual Q&A session:

Why do the Bulls keep blowing leads?

Two reasons, basically. Their best player, Zach LaVine, who takes the vast majority of shots during crunchtime, has no winning experience in the NBA. He came from Minnesota, where Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are still trying to figure it out.

What LaVine needs more than anything right now is a mentor on the court who can guide him through these late-game moments.

The other reason is the Bulls don't have any great options besides LaVine late in games. What other player on the roster has a good chance of creating and making his own shot in a big moment against a good defense?

No need to answer.

Why didn't Kris Dunn play down the stretch?

This illustrates the other major problem with the Bulls. They have guys who are good at scoring, guys who are good on defense, but basically no one who is good at both.

Coach Jim Boylen faces lineup quandaries like this most every night. Should be play Dunn instead of Tomas Satoransky? Well, Satoransky did hit a couple of jumpers and scored the Bulls' final 5 points of the fourth quarter.

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If Dunn was in there, maybe Malcolm Brogdon doesn't score 11 points in the final 10 minutes while hitting 5 of 6 shots from the field. Boylen tried to use Denzel Valentine as a 3-point shooter, but then he has two guys on the floor who struggle on defense against quick opponents.

Why doesn't Valentine play more?

This was partially addressed above. I've been in favor of Valentine getting minutes in every game. The thing is, when he's playing well and hitting his outside shot, he can be pretty good. But when his shot is off and there's a tough defensive assignment, it can quickly go in the other direction.

That's why I think Boylen has used Ryan Arcidiacono more often. Arcidiacono is relatively consistent and can do a decent job of shooting, playmaking and defense. Boylen knows what he'll get.

Why doesn't Coby White start?

This wasn't really a factor Wednesday, but I've heard this question asked plenty of times. This starts with the fact that White is clearly a shooting guard, so playing him at point guard in the starting lineup doesn't seem like a great idea.


Then when you look at White's overall body of work this season, he's been pretty average, with occasional glimpses of something special. He's well behind where Ben Gordon was as a rookie. Boylen is right to give White a little time to develop. The rookie probably needs a little more variety to his game.

So far, it's been mostly 3-pointers or straight-line drives to the hoop.

Any suggestions?

It's going to be tough with this roster. But I'd say for starters, the Bulls have generally been better this season with Dunn on the floor, so leave him out there and try to take advantage of his ability to score off the drive late in games, which he did really well a couple of years ago.

Also, when in doubt, turn to the veteran. It's probably no coincidence the Bulls were a foul call away from a three-game winning streak with veteran Thaddeus Young filling in for the injured Lauri Markkanen.

Veterans help a lot. So try to find a way to get Young involved in the late-game offense. Obviously, he's not a guy you'd isolate 1-on-1, but he finishes well, so maybe putting him in a late screen-and-roll instead of Cristiano Felicio is worth a try.

And ride Chandler Hutchison while he's healthy and playing well. He played less than 10 minutes in the second half Wednesday.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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