Bulls deliver huge rally, but lose close one to OKC
When the Bulls traveled to Oklahoma City back on Dec. 16, it seemed like they might be on the verge of a breakthrough.
Two days after beating a short-handed Los Angeles Clippers squad, the Bulls built a 26-point lead against the Thunder in Oklahoma.
Of course, there was no quality win, no breakthrough. OKC rallied for a victory that night.
So the Bulls changed tactics for Tuesday's rematch at the United Center. Instead of a big lead, the Bulls fell behind by 24 points in the second quarter of this one.
Surprisingly enough, it worked. In what might have been the most entertaining game of the season, the Bulls took the lead, it changed hands several times down the stretch and Oklahoma City finally won 124-122 when a Zach LaVine 3-pointer fell short at the final buzzer.
Maybe the breakthrough finally arrived. This was the third straight game Coby White eclipsed the 30-point mark. He and LaVine were a problem while knocking down shots in tandem.
LaVine finished with 41 points, hitting 19 of 35 shots from the field. White added a career-high 35 points, knocking down 6 of 9 attempts from 3-point range.
The Bulls attempted just 9 free throws on the night, 3 each by White and LaVine. White made all 3 of his, LaVine missed all 3. The Thunder was 26-for-35 from the foul line.
The Bulls unleashed a brilliant third quarter, outscoring the OKC 38-19 with LaVine (19) and White (9) scoring 28 of the 38 points.
LaVine didn't even record his first 3-point basket until the final minute of the third quarter. He actually reached 30 points without a single 3-pointer or made free throw.
"I talked to (White) about he's proven he can play in the league, he's proven he can score," coach Jim Boylen said. "What I asked him to do was become a complete player and defend and rebound and try to become as good a guard as he can become. I did not put the pressure on him to be a second scorer or (tell him) he needs to average this. Control the things he can control and compete on every possession. I think his compete level has gone up. I think his recovery from maybe a negative play to the next play has gotten better. I think those propel you forward."
There was tense back-and-forth down the stretch. Thad Young's 3-pointer off a pass from White put the Bulls ahead 110-109 with 3:18 left. The Thunder answered with a Steven Adams reverse, the Bulls got a LaVine jumper, OKC went ahead with a Dennis Schroder jumper.
White scored on a nice lane drive to put the Bulls ahead 114-113 with 2:02 left, but that was their last lead. Danilo Gallinari blew past Young for a dunk and the lead changed hands for the sixth straight possession.
On the next trip, the Bulls didn't get the call when Schroder slid under LaVine on a drive, so the Thunder got the ball with the lead and Chris Paul hit a runner with 1:03 left to put OKC up by 3.
After some Bulls misses and Thunder free throws, LaVine drilled 2 straight 3-pointers to bring the Bulls back within 121-120 with 16.4 seconds left. LaVine second 3-pointer was with his foot still touching the horn of the Bulls' midcourt logo, so roughly 35 feet.
Paul hit 2 free throws and LaVine missed a 3 for the tie, but Daniel Gafford followed it in to keep the Bulls within 1. When Paul made just 1 of 2 a few seconds later, the Bulls got another chance down by 2.
This time, Paul basically had LaVine wrapped in a bear hug and he broke free to unload a final 3-pointer, but it fell short.
At the start, everyone from the Thunder was on fire. OKC started 11 of 14 from long-range and Gallinari had 19 points by the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder then made one of its next 13 3-point attempts. Gallinari finished with 24 points, while Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 21 each. Paul finished with 19 points and 9 assists as Oklahoma City (36-22) won its ninth straight road game.