CHICAGO – The last three times they’ve taken the floor, they’ve been right there till the end. The very end, to be exact.
They had a shot to tie or win the game against the Warriors at the United Center on Friday, Sunday against the Heat, and Monday against the Raptors at home again. The last two would have been victories over contenders in the Eastern Conference, and a boost for a struggling team.
Yet each time, the finishing touch escaped the Bulls, getting more painful a new losing streak has manifested.
Against Toronto at the United Center, the Bulls had two possessions to try to win the game, but neither one managed to work out. Lauri Markkanen was blocked in the lane with 30 seconds left, then after a defensive stop, Zach LaVine’s shot on the drive near the baseline was off the mark, leaving the Bulls to deal with a 93-92 loss to the Raptors.
That’s the third-straight game Jim Boylen’s team has been in a position to win, and the third time they’ve not been able to find the winning touch as their record drops to 8-17 on the season.
This finish was a lot more like Friday’s contest, where LaVine waved off a potential screen from Wendell Carter Jr. to go for a game-winning three-pointer. That shot missed, and perhaps that was on his mind when he decided to drive to the hoop this time. As he did, Daniel Gafford popped open for a bit as Marc Gasol approached him on the side of the paint for the double team, but LaVine continued with the drive and his contested shot went off the back of the rim.
A rebound bounced to the middle of the paint and Gafford along with Markkanen weren’t able to get it as the clock ran out.
Once again, it was a frustrating end to what could’ve been a big victory for the Bulls after they led by as many as eight earlier in the fourth. Instead, Toronto chipped away at the lead and made it a back-and-forth affair the last five minutes. Gafford’s hoop with 1:06 left gave the Bulls their final lead of the game, but Kyle Lowry responded with the go-ahead hoop 16 seconds later, and that’s all the scoring there would be till the end.
The loss to the Raptors, Heat, and Warriors add another frustrating chapter to the team’s season where closing has been a major issue. Now instead of a momentum-building win streak, they’re saddled with yet another losing skid as victory continues to elude Boylen’s group.