LOS ANGELES – A four-game road trip to the west coast provided a familiar script for the Bulls over the last week.
The games were competitive and they came down to the end, with Zach LaVine’s big performances leading to these scenarios.
It played out again on Sunday afternoon against the Clippers, as the Bulls looked to finish their trip with a .500 record at the Staples Center. But this finish looked a lot like the team’s second contest at the Los Angeles venue in three days, where LaVine’s big effort was a shot short.
LaVine delivered his best performances of the season, scoring 45 points and hitting ten three-pointers as the Bulls stuck with the Western Conference contenders for 48 minutes. But like the game against the Lakers on Friday, his last second shot to take the lead was off the mark.
The airball on the three-point attempt from the top of the key finished off a difficult 130-127 loss to the Clippers that sends the team to a third-straight loss. It also completes the road trip that included four competitive games, but only one that went the Bulls’ way when they knocked off the Blazers on Tuesday night.
That was highlighted by LaVine’s game-winner in the closing seconds that gave the team their best victory of the season to date. His 32 points along with Coby White’s 36 kept the Bulls in it till the end against the Kings the next night, but they weren’t able to get over the top despite getting within a point of Sacramento in the final minute.
LaVine had 21 first half points against the Lakers Friday and finished with 38, getting a chance to win the game in the final seconds with the Bulls down one. But his shot was off the mark and Patrick Williams knocked a potential offensive rebound out of bounds, leading to a two-point loss.
Sunday featured an outside shooting display from the guard, who knocked down 10-of-16 from behind the arch. It’s the second time in Bulls’ history that a player has reached the double-digit mark in three-pointers, with LaVine doing the same (13) against the Hornets on November 23, 2019 as part of a 49-point effort.
Kawhi Leonard would attempt to match LaVine, coming close with 35 points of his own as Los Angeles took control late in the fourth quarter. His inside hoop pushed the Clippers’ lead to seven with 56 seconds to go, but six-quick points by LaVine got the lead within one.
After a pair of Paul George free throws pushed the lead back to three, but LaVine didn’t have an answer, as another great effort in LA comes up a bucket short.