Chicago Bulls seem disinterested until it's too late, lose to New Orleans
At the start of the night, fans at the United Center were ready to ooh and ahh over New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson.
By the end, they were chanting a semi-honest "MVP" at Bulls two-way player Adam Mokoka.
The Bulls lost to New Orleans 125-119 on Thursday. For most of the night, they played like a group of guys who were mad they weren't traded somewhere else before the deadline.
Mokoka, who started the night with no career points in the NBA, eventually gave fans something to cheer about. He knocked down 3 straight 3-pointers, added a couple of drives to the basket and scored 15 points in the last five minutes.
"The game was over by then, in my book," Zach LaVine said. "I don't know what we were cheering for. I'm happy for Adam, but that game was over. We lost. We got our butt whooped.
"If they had kept their starters in, if we wouldn't have had Adam go crazy and pull a T-Mac in the last five minutes, it would have been a blowout."
It was a nice story, though, considering Mokoka's mother, Rosette, flew in from Paris, France, and attended her first game Thursday. Mokoka gestured toward the crowd after each 3-pointer, which he said was for his mother.
"Coby (White) told me, 'Shoot your shot.' So I just shot my shot and it went in, so I was happy," Mokoka said. "I'm glad the fans were happy for me. My mother, she just got here today. To be able to score in front of her and be able to make my first bucket in front of my mother was really a blessing."
Very few NBA players have scored as many as 15 points in just five minutes of action - and for Mokoka, those were his first NBA points. According to basketball-reference.com, Billy Knight scored 17 points in five minutes in 1982, and Tom Hawkins scored 16 points in four minutes in 1967. Those are the only players in Mokoka's stratosphere.
The fans also were pumped to get free hot dogs when Nicolo Melli missed 2 free throws with 10.9 seconds left. Then Ryan Arcidiacono drained a 3-pointer to bring the Bulls within 4 points, but it was too late to matter.
"We're beat up man," said Lavine, who led the Bulls with 22 points. "It's hard for us to stay in some games right now. You get frustrated with it. You should be frustrated. If you're not frustrated, that means you don't care. I hope everyone's frustrated.
"If you don't make a game of it, you're going to lose. I think it's the third straight game that the starters weren't able to finish the game. It's my third, I know that. It stinks not being able to play."
The Bulls shot 58.5 percent in the first half and trailed by 10 at halftime. In the third quarter, they missed 11 straight shots and watched New Orleans pull away. The Pelicans (21-31) finished with 38 assists, an opponent season high, and knocked down 16 of 38 shots from 3-point range.
Williamson, who also played at the United Center in the preseason, finished with 21 points and hit 9 of 11 shots from the field. His most impressive play probably was a lob dunk in the fourth quarter where he just jumped over 31-year-old Thaddeus Young, while Young was in the right spot defensively.
"I thought we weren't not trying," Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. "I thought they were better than us offensively. We had a stretch where we had 4 turnovers in a row and it kind of flipped the game. Our start was good. We were up, we were running, we had opportunities at the rim."
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