Bulls meltdown late in loss to Nets
Wendell Cruz - USA Today Sports

Bulls meltdown late in loss to Nets

by - Senior Writer -

BROOKLYN — As tough as this may be to believe, the magic number for the Chicago Bulls (35-39) to clinch a playoff spot is just two games. That doesn't seem all that difficult with eight games left, especially considering some of the games left, but this team doesn't play with enough consistency to ensure fans' confidence.

The only team at this point that could ultimately steal a playoff spot from the Bulls is the Brooklyn Nets (29-45), who entered the game seven games behind the Bulls with nine games to play. A loss on Friday would knock the Nets out of playoff contention, so you could say this was a make-or-break game for them.

Brooklyn certainly played like their season was on the line as they came out fast to take a 27-21 first-quarter lead before falling behind by five at the half as Chicago dominated them in the second quarter 31-20. The bad news with that was that was the only quarter the Bulls outscored the Nets in as Brooklyn dominated them in the second half, including their massive 39-23 fourth quarter to put the game away to secure the massive 125-108 victory.

These are the losses the Bulls can't have this late in the season, and even if they still have great playoff hopes, they need to find a way to win the games they should win. One player who knows the importance of all these games is their lead, Demar DeRozan, who continues to go about his business. Not only did he log 37 more minutes to remain one of the league leaders in minutes played, but he led the Bulls with 31 points while pulling down eight boards.

Whenever you get production like that from him, you do feel confident in the Bulls' ability to win games, but when he is the only player scoring 20 points, that confidence level goes out the window. Even with four other players dropping double figures, the offensive production wasn't where it needed to be, as Coby White was next in line for the scorers with 18 points.

Since his hip injury a few weeks ago, White has struggled a bit to find his shot, but he is still doing a great job scoring points, which the Bulls need right now. Ayo Dosunmu bounced back from a rough game on Wednesday to drop 16 points, with Nikola Vucevic rounding out the double-digit scorers with 13 points and 10 boards. Vucevic had 11 of those points at the half, so his lack of second-half production is one of the reasons why the Bulls struggled the final 24 minutes. Chicago also picked up seven points from Torrey Craig and Javonte Green off the bench, with Alex Caruso adding six to the starting lineup.

Although this may be a shell of what this Nets team looked like the past two seasons, their future is bright. They have plenty of young talent and the draft picks to create an incredible roster. You could even make the case that this was one of their most complete performances of the season, and it couldn't have come at a better time for them.

Cam Thomas had the hot hand most of the night with 28 points and eight boards as he connected on five triples. Dennis Schroder picked up 27 points with seven assists, while Mikal Bridges added 25 points to give the Nets a three-headed monster the Bulls couldn't stop. When you look at what the Bulls starting five did compared to the Nets starting five, this is ultimately where the game won and lost.

While those three will get most of the attention for the job they did, they weren't alone, as all five of the Nets starters landed in double figures. Dorian Finney-Smith added 12 points, and Nic Claxton picked up 11 points and 13 boards, as the starters combined for 103 of their 125 points. It doesn't matter how good or bad you are; when your starters score more than 100 combined points, you are going to win a ton of games.

Trendon Watford gave the Nets six players in double figures with 11 points off the bench as the Bulls had no answers most of the night. Not only was the starting lineup a big reason why the Nets won this game, but it was their success from a distance, where Brooklyn shot 56% percent. It would be one thing if they knocked down 10 shots from deep at that percentage, but to connect on 25 triples at more than a 50% clip, it was just one of those nights for the Bulls.


Although Windy City has officially been eliminated from playoff contention, they still had two games left with the Wisconsin Herd to end the season on a high note. That included their home finale on Friday, where the Bulls treated the home fans to a dominating 127-103 victory. As expected, Adama Sanogo continued to go about his business and put forth one of his best performances of the season.

Not only did he lead the team with 29 points, but he also hauled in 20 rebounds for his third 20-point game of the season. That is a tough feat no matter who you are, and Sanogo has proven he has what it takes to at least be given a shot on the Bulls NBA roster. Joining Sanogo were five more double-digit scorers, including all five in the starting lineup.

Jalen Harris continued his strong final month with 19 points, while Kiefer Sykes added 17 points and six assists. Windy City also benefited from Henri Drell, who picked up 14 points and 12 boards, while Andrew Funk dropped 13 points, giving the Bulls a balanced lineup that was tough to contend with. Ben Coupet JR added 10 points off the bench for Windy City, which will now head to Oshkosh to close out the season on Saturday.

Some would call this the Herd's rebuilding year, but they still have plenty of talent to lean on for next season and beyond. Like Windy City, they had six double-digit scorers, with Chris Livingston leading the way with 23 points. He was joined by Ford and his 21 points, while Smith and Clark each had 15.

Rounding out the strong showings from the Herd were Glenn Robinson Jr and his 10 points off the bench along with Shaq Thompson and his 11. These same teams will meet on Saturday in Oshkosh to close out their campaign before the possibility of having some of these guys join the Bulls roster.

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