OKLAHOMA CITY – While the advantage came before the end of the first half, it seemed a lead that would stand the test of time.
Ryan Arcidiacono knocked down a three-pointer with 7:59 to go in the first half to give the Bulls a 25-point lead over the Thunder Monday night. It held steady all the way till halftime when the visitors led by 19 points with 24 minutes to go.
Surely that would be enough for the Bulls to come home with a rare road win and a second-straight victory?
Fans should know better by now.
In fact, the Bulls managed to drop the lead, rally to tie it, then lose it in the final seconds on a late foul. Defeats have come in many ways for Jim Boylen’s team this season and Monday’s was most unusual as Oklahoma City rallied for a 109-106 at Chesapeake Bay Arena.
Gone is the chance for back-to-back wins for just the second time this season as the Bulls drop one of their more painful games of this season to fall to 10-19.
The final ten seconds is where this once blowout would end up being decided, and it started with Chris Paul. As he drove down the lane, he was met by Wendell Carter Jr and lost his balance, but managed to get a timeout while he was on the ground. On the subsequent inbounds play, Carter was whistled for a foul on Steven Adams in the paint, giving the forward a pair of free throws.
That infraction was actually evaluated for flagrant foul, which would have given Oklahoma City the ball back after the shots, but replay ruled it to be a regular infraction.
Adams made the first then missed the second, but he knocked the ball to the backcourt in the lane to Paul who got the rebound. He knocked down two free throws with 1.3 seconds left to increase the lead to three and the Bulls’ desperate attempt to tie was off the mark, handing the team a loss that seemed a sure win for a majority of the night.
Zach LaVine led the way with another major offensive night in December, reaching the 30-point mark for a third time in five games as he led all scorers with 39. He hit 15-of-25 shots from the floor, shooting over 60 percent from the field for just the third time this season, and his efforts helped the Bulls race out to a 37-16 lead after a quarter.
The lead held at 19 at the half but Oklahoma City climbed back into the game in the third as they outscored the Bulls by 11 in the quarter to get the advantage down to eight. Paul completed the comeback with 4:01 to go in the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to put the Thunder up 101-100 and they’d get it up to four before the Bulls rallied to tie.
LaVine’s layup with 25 seconds to go evened the game at 106 before the forgettable final seconds that added yet another unique chapter of disappointment to this Bulls’ season.