CHICAGO – When it comes to getting progress with this Bulls’ team, there always seems to be something that gets in their way.
Sometimes it’s the offense and other times it’s the defense. There have been bad starts that have doomed the team and even more poor finishes that have led to losses. All have combined to take what the Bulls thought would be a year they could break through in their rebuild and turn it into another season of struggle so far.
This week, there is one main issue that’s crept up to derail Jim Boylen’s team as 2020 begins.
Over the last three games, when the Bulls has faced winning teams, the third quarter has been the main problem in a trio of defeats that came at the United Center.
Against the Bucks on Monday, the Jazz on Thursday, and the Celtics on Saturday night, a terrible 12 minutes after halftime doomed the Bulls. In the last of those games, they were outscored by nine points, and it put the hosts in a hole they’d not climb out of in a 111-104 defeat that drops them to 13-23 on the season.
They were outscored 30-21 in the quarter, and their slow play continued into the start of the fourth where they fell behind by 16.
On top of that, as the team struggled, Boylen burned a few timeouts to stop the bleeding. It left none for the Bulls in the final four minutes after they’d make a run to get back in the game.
A late rally got the Celtics’ lead down to three, which was sparked by Zach LaVine and his game-high 35 points, yet it wasn’t enough.
Jayson Tatum’s three-pointer with 1:06 to play, apart of his 28 points, pushed the lead to eight and gave Boston their first win over the Bulls this season.
This pattern of bad third quarters has been a theme in this stretch against strong teams, with the Bulls getting outscored 40-25 by the Bucks on Monday in a 123-102 loss at the United Center. On Thursday, Utah outscored the Bulls by ten, and like Saturday made the Bulls chase for much of the fourth quarter, and while they were able to tie the game at 96 in the final two minutes, they didn’t have enough left to finish the job.
They’d only score two points the rest of the way against the Jazz and ended up losing by four, and the same result took place on Saturday as the Bulls couldn’t dig out of the hole they’d made for themselves after the break.