Bulls show some fight, but fall short in loss to Boston
The last shot won't always fall, but at least the Bulls were in a position where it mattered.
Without Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball and several others, the short-handed Bulls not only competed at Boston on Saturday, they held a 112-106 lead with two minutes left.
They couldn't score during their final five possessions, though, and lost 114-112. A heartbreaking defeat in some ways, but after brutal losses to Brooklyn and Golden State in the previous two games, at least the Bulls proved they can be competitive with their depleted lineup.
"I think maybe it comes at a good time for us to understand there's still a lot of room for us to grow," Nikola Vucevic said. "When you win nine in a row, it's human nature that you relax a little bit. Now we know we've got a lot of work to do to get where we want to be."
Vucevic led the Bulls with 27 points, DeMar DeRozan added 23, Ayo Dosunmu recorded two career-highs with 21 points and 10 assists, while hitting 9 of 10 shots from the field. Coby White hit 5 of 10 3-pointers for 19 points.
Vucevic had a good look at a 3-pointer in the waning seconds. It missed, DeRozan got the rebound and had a chance for a third heroic shot in three weeks, but his fadeaway was short as the game ended.
"I think what happened the last two games at home really bothered them and they went out and did a great job," coach Billy Donovan said. "We competed. We really got in there and competed.
"This is what you do when you go through a season. You have to come together and fight and scrap and claw, and there's going to be setbacks."
The Bulls trailed by 12 early in the second quarter, but pulled even by the end of the third quarter. In the fourth, the Bulls used a 21-9 run to turn a 6-point deficit to a 6-point lead.
Donovan sent newcomer Malcolm Hill on the floor in crunchtime to help with the defense. The former Illini star drew a charge on Jayson Tatum with 2:57 left, then his tight defense created a traveling call by Jaylen Brown.
The Bulls (27-14) missed a couple of good chances to boost the lead, then Brown's corner jumper brought the Celtics within 112-110. Robert Williams tied it with a pair of free throws with 31 seconds remaining
DeRozan tried to bank in a long jumper from the top of the key over Tatum, but it rimmed out. Vucevic was called for a foul for grabbing Williams' jersey on the rebound and the Celtics big man canned 2 more free throws to put the home team ahead with 9.7 seconds on the clock.
This was the second time Dosunmu set a season-high in Boston. He had his first double-figure scoring game as a pro with 14 points on Nov. 1.
"The complement I can get is coach asking me to guard their best player night in and night out," Dosunmu said. "So I just try to go out there and compete, play how I know how to play.
"And just play with confidence, just go out there and try to be as playmaker. It's all a learning process and I think I'll continue to get better."
Kerr recalls Klay's day:
The Bulls giving up 138 points in consecutive home games brought back memories of one of the franchise's defensive lowlights -- the night Golden State's Klay Thompson set the NBA record with 14 3-pointers as the Warriors won 149-124 at the United Center.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr thought back to that night in 2018 before Friday's game.
"I remember being very uncomfortable about the last two minutes before he broke it," Kerr said. "You want your player to experience something and you want your team to feel great about something for their teammate. At the same time, you don't want to offend the other team and the other coach.
"I remember looking down at Fred (Hoiberg), knowing we were friends, so I was desperately hoping Klay would make the last one so we could move and fortunately he made one and we got everybody out and it was no harm done."
Worst of bad defense:
The Bulls allowed 138 points in back-to-back games against Brooklyn and Golden State this week. That was the most points given up in a two-day span since early in the 1982 season, when the Bulls lost to Washington 143-125 and at Detroit 152-144.
The Bulls starting lineups in those two games included Reggie Theus, David Greenwood, Orlando Woolridge, Mark Olberding, Tracy Jackson, Dave Corzine, Dwight Jones and Ronnie Lester. Coach Paul Westhead changed the starters in between games. He later popularized a fast-paced, high-scoring style at Loyola Marymount and the Denver Nuggets.