Bulls fall short down the stretch in loss to New Orleans
This ending was classic NBA: Two stars trading clutch shots down the stretch.
But a couple of failed late possession proved costly for the Bulls, and they dropped a 115-111 decision to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday at the United Center.
In the fourth quarter, there were nine lead changes and neither side led by more than 4 points until the final 20 seconds.
DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Ingram went six straight possessions hitting clutch shots to either tie the game or take the lead. But finally DeRozan missed a shot after some contact. Then, with the Bulls trailing by 3, he couldn't control an inbound pass from Goran Dragic and lost the ball out of bounds with 17.4 seconds left.
"That was on me, wasn't nobody else's fault, it was on me," DeRozan said of the botched inbound. "It's just frustrating when we don't give ourselves the chance to see what could have happened by making mistakes."
Ingram scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, while hitting 6 of 8 shots. DeRozan scored 33 points, hitting 14 of 26 shots from the field. Zach LaVine added 24 and Nikola Vucevic had 18, including a couple of key 3-pointers down the stretch.
The Bulls were also frustrated by the previous possession when, trailing by 2, DeRozan missed a runner in the lane. New Orleans doubled up the Bulls in free-throw attempts, 36-18.
"Yeah, I thought I did (get fouled)," DeRozan said. "Did it look like it? I thought I was fouled, but it is what it is. I was trying to be aggressive. I was trying to make them make a decision.
"They were kind of staying home on me, so I was trying my best just to get downhill. If they was going to collapse, I was going to look for Zach and Vuc, 3-point shooters. But they were staying home for the most part, so I just kept trying to go downhill and go from there."
Bulls coach Billy Donovan gave a detailed explanation of why DeRozan had reason to feel frustrated.
"My feeling is there's fouls that need to be called that are not being called," Donovan said. "When you feel like there's calls being missed and you're getting hit, after a while I think that kind of builds up. That would be my response to that. I think he regathered himself. But there are times when he's going in there and you can see clearly there's contact and I think he could get (more) calls."
The referees got off to a rough start 90 seconds into the contest when Patrick Williams had a breakaway, but his dunk attempt was blocked by Herbert Jones.
When the play was shown on the video board, everyone in the building could see it wasn't anywhere close to being a blocked shot. Jones smacked Williams about halfway up the arm, no foul was called and the Bulls came up empty.
Just after DeRozan got a technical foul midway through the third quarter, the Bulls delivered one of their best defensive highlights of the season as DeRozan blocked Zion Williamson from behind and Williams swatted Naji Marshall's putback attempt.
Not long after that, the Pelicans' lead peaked at 11. The Bulls made up ground quickly and took the lead on a Goran Dragic layup and 3-point play with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
Donovan went with a more experienced closing lineup, using Dragic and Alex Caruso down the stretch. With the Bulls ahead by 1, DeRozan drove to the basket, wanted a foul, didn't get one and threw away the ensuing inbound pass. C.J. McCollum scored after the turnover to put New Orleans up 104-103 with 2:08 left.
From there, DeRozan and Ingram took turns hitting clutch baskets. They each scored on three straight trips, including a 3 by Ingram, until DeRozan missed the runner in the lane with 25.8 seconds left. Williamson missed a free throw to give the Bulls a chance trailing by 3.