LaVine can't save Bulls from poor performance against Wizards

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Associated PressChicago Bulls' Zach LaVine shoots over Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal (3) as Raul Neto watches during the first half Monday night at the United Center.

    Associated PressChicago Bulls' Zach LaVine shoots over Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal (3) as Raul Neto watches during the first half Monday night at the United Center.

 
 
Updated 2/8/2021 10:27 PM

This was a night to determine whether the Bulls were missing too many players to beat the NBA's worst defense.

The Bulls were without Lauri Markkanen (shoulder), Wendell Carter Jr. (quad), Otto Porter (back) and Chandler Hutchison (personal). Wizards guard Russell Westbrook sat out because it was the second leg of a back to back.

 

And to be fair, it's objective whether Washington has the league's worst defense. The Wizards rank last in points allowed, but are second-worst behind Sacramento in defensive rating.

Ultimately, the Bulls didn't have enough to win. Despite 35 points from Zach LaVine, they fell behind in the second quarter and couldn't catch all the way up in a 105-101 loss at the United Center.

Washington's Bradley Beal matched LaVine with 35 points. But the Bulls didn't offer enough help. Thad Young was the second-leading scorer with 14 points, and the Bulls collectively shot 9 for 30 from 3-point range.

"I thought a lot of times tonight there were way too many possessions I thought we stood around and watched Zach," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "That's not only on Zach, that's on everybody. Everybody's got to contribute in terms of moving and cutting and helping each other and I think we had too many possessions like that. I just don't believe that's a winning formula or recipe for this team to watch those two guys just try to score.

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"Because the two of them cannot score enough points for us to win at the level this group would like to win, in my opinion. I'd like for him to be aggressive, I want to take good shots. If they're there, if he's got 10 open 3s, take all 10 of them. If you can drive to the basket, drive, but he's got to make good decisions, too."

The Bulls (9-14) trailed from the 10-minute mark of the second quarter and every attempt to pull even was thwarted.

LaVine had a chance to tie it at the end and blew past Beal into a wide open lane. Wizards center Alex Len did a nice job of jumping in front of the basket, LaVine tried to go around him and his layup rolled off the rim. LaVine was asking for a foul call, but he didn't get it and there was no foul visible on the replay. LaVine was athletic enough to elude Len, but ended up shooting at a tough angle.

"We obviously haven't figured out to win games we're capable of winning," LaVine said. "It's frustrating. I've got to look at myself first. I thought I drove and created contact and the refs saw it different. I guess I've got to make the layup."

LaVine missed a jumper with 2:07 left that could have tied it. Coby White hit a short jumper with 29.2 seconds left to bring the Bulls within 102-101.

Needing a defensive stop, the Bulls fouled Beal, but he missed the first of 2 free throws, leaving the advantage at 2 points with 9.8 seconds left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Really, though, this game was lost in the second quarter when the Bulls were outscored 34-21 and turned it over six times.

"The second quarter completely broke our rhythm offensively because almost every possession was a walk-up situation because we either gave up an offensive rebound or a score or fouled," Donovan said. "What ends up happening is you start to build habits that start to come to the surface in the most crucial times.

"There were too many possessions where we weren't down in a stance, we weren't aware on the weak side, we ran into screens, we were late on things, we didn't block out. Then we came down and had some poor possessions."

The Bulls got within a point midway through the third quarter, but Denzel Valentine was called for a flagrant foul for not giving Beal enough landing space on a 3-point shot. Beal hit all 3 free throws, Washington got the ball back and Rui Hachimura hit another 3 for a quick 6-0 run in eight seconds of game time.

Center Daniel Gafford got off to a good start, scoring 8 points in the first quarter. But he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls early in the third quarter, added a technical for complaining about the call and had to go to the bench. Gafford finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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