CHICAGO – For all of the nights for something like that to almost happen, this would have been one of the most heartbreaking, especially considering what the Bulls had done under the circumstances.
While Otto Porter Jr. returned to the lineup on minutes restrictions, Zach LaVine was out of the lineup for the first time all season with a strained quad. Gone was the team’s leading scorer as they faced a team from the Western Conference that’s fighting for a playoff spot.
Yet the Bulls fought back from an early deficit against the Mavericks Monday at the United Center, and thanks to a huge third quarter, they had a comfortable eight-point lead with 25.6 seconds to go.
Then disaster came very to striking again.
Two turnovers by the Bulls, a dunk, and a pair of three-pointers by Dallas had this lead down to just two with 2.6 seconds remaining, and Luka Doncic got a half-court look at the buzzer. But his shot slammed off the rim as the clock ran out, and the Bulls had their 109-107 victory over the Mavericks.
A collective sigh of relief came from the Bulls, who went from having arguably their most gut-wrenching loss of the season to picking up their second victory over a winning team this year.
What that ending partially overshadowed was a strong effort by the Bulls over the last three quarters after they trailed by ten at the end of one quarter. With LaVine out, the Bulls distributed the offense as six players registered double-figures, with Coby White leading the way with 19 and Porter 18.
Denzel Valentine, who started in place of LaVine, went for 17, and the group shined as a collective in the third quarter. In those 12 minutes, they outscored Dallas 33-17 to grab the advantage, then kept it going well into the fourth quarter. It appeared White’s layup with 25 seconds left had put away the game, but then things went bad.
Tomas Satoransky tried to throw the ball deep in the backcourt on an inbounds pass, but it was stolen in the lane by Maxi Kleber who dunked it home to cut the lead to six. On the ensuing inbounds, Adam Mokoka’s pass was stolen by Delon Wright, who passed it to the corner for Dorian Finney-Smith for the three to make it a three-point contest.
Thaddeus Young split a pair of free throws, and when-Finney Smith hit another three-pointer with 4.9 seconds left, the lead was down to one. After Wendell Carter Jr hit the second of his pair of free throws, Dallas got the chance to win and found Doncic around midcourt on the inbounds.
He got a look for the winner, but his high-arching shot hit the rim, saving a good effort for the Bulls from a near disaster.