So close. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Hitting a desperation 46-footer with no time remaining on the clock is pretty awesome, so, in that sense, way to go, Mike Dunleavy:
In another sense, though, scoring three points only matters so much when your team trails by four, as Dunleavy's Chicago Bulls did after two clutch free throws by Glen Davis with one second remaining. (And as Dunleavy, after a brief moment of elation, realized to his chagrin.)
In the end, Li'l Dun's half-court heave just gave Bulls fans one last thrill before heading out into the Monday evening chill on the receiving end of an 83-82 loss to the visiting Orlando Magic. What makes the long-range connection especially difficult to stomach is that it might have been a beyond-belief game-winner, if only Luol Deng had made this driving layup drawn up by Tom Thibodeau during a Chicago timeout with just under seven seconds remaining:
But alas, despite the clean release on the cut to the basket, the step on defender Victor Oladipo and the pinpoint high-low pass from center Joakim Noah (who scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to help bring Chicago back from a 10-point deficit), Deng just couldn't get the layup to stay down, leading to a rebound by Davis, an immediate Chicago foul and the two free throws that put the game just out of reach.
"I had a good angle and it was a great pass by Jo," Deng said after the game, according to The Associated Press. "I missed the shot and I knew I missed it when it left my hand. It was just a bad, bad miss and my fault."
That's not to hang all the blame on Deng, though. He led the Bulls with a game-high 26 points on 8 for 16 shooting, went 9 for 12 at the foul line and grabbed eight rebounds in 42 minutes; he basically was the Bulls' offense. Unfortunately, though, that last-chance (or, I guess, second-to-last chance, given Dun's closing bomb) miss was also pretty representative of the Chicago attack in a game that saw the Bulls (who shot just 34.6 percent from the floor overall) miss a staggering 16 of 25 attempts taken inside the restricted area, and 22 of 34 shots in the paint overall.
I think it's safe to say that Thibodeau is aware of his team's interior struggle, based on this postgame quote from ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg:
As much as I love propagating the idea of ThibsBall as a way of life, Thibodeau isn't a magician. He's not a miracle worker. He's just a very prepared, crazily intense basketball coach. And the only way he knows to address this problem is to work harder in practice.
"It's my job is to make sure we're ready to make our layups," he said. "We obviously have to work harder in practice on taking layups and making layups and doing them at a game-like speed. So I'm going to put more into that. That part is on me."
I mean, I'm not so sure that it is — and neither is Bulls forward Taj Gibson: "We're the guys out there on the court. There's only so much he can do." — but I applaud the effort, Coach. Maybe you can take the time you had planned to spend on late-game 46-footers and devote it to some extra layup lines; I think Dun's got you covered on the former.
Video via Ben Golliver of The Point Forward.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Bulls
- Tom Thibodeau