5 takeaways from another clutch win as the Chicago Bulls escape disaster over the Portland Trail Blazers 110-107

Flirting with disaster has become commonplace for the Chicago Bulls. But on Monday night, the short-handed side almost took that flair for the dramatic too far.

For once, the Bulls were in a favorable position — leading by 16 points over the Portland Trail Blazers deep in the third quarter. Finish off a win and the Bulls would climb back to one game below .500 with a prime opportunity to level their record against the Houston Rockets later this week.

But that would be too easy.

Instead, the Bulls sunk into a funk. They let the lead slip down to single digits. DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević coughed up a couple of turnovers. The Blazers racked up a quick nine unanswered points. And suddenly, the Bulls were marching into the final five minutes of the game with their lead cut down to two points — then shaved down to a tie, then flipped into a brief two-point deficit.

Experience ultimately won out. DeRozan earned a critical three-point play by drawing a foul on a jumper. Onuralp Bitim deflected a pass to force a turnover for a pair of points. Alex Caruso slapped an attempted game-winning shot out of Anfernee Simons’ hands despite the risk of swiping at the ball while sitting on five fouls. And the Bulls escaped with a 110-107 win.

But the game highlighted the risk the Bulls keep creating by failing to cleanly put games away.

The Bulls have now played 184 minutes in the clutch over 39 games this season. That means 56.5% of their games have finished with a margin of five or fewer points in the last five minutes. No other team in the league spends the majority of their finishes with this thin of a margin.

This trend has landed in the Bulls’ favor. They have won 24 of those 39 games, clinching only 10 of their wins with more than five points. But each time the Bulls stumble back into the clutch zone, it brings a wave of inevitable uncertainty — surely, this can’t be sustainable.

Photos: Chicago Bulls 110, Portland Trail Blazers 107

“It’s something that we’ve got to correct and get better at,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It happened in Indiana. Same thing happened the other night against Washington. We got to look at those possessions in terms of guys understanding what are the things in games that change momentum. We had some plays that really changed momentum in the game. It was on both ends. It was a multitude of things, decisions that we’ve got to get better at and learn from.”

Here are four other takeaways from the game:

1. Ayo Dosunmu continues his scoring success.

With Coby White sidelined due to a hip injury, the Bulls have desperately needed another player to step up. Ayo Dosunmu has eagerly delivered on that request.

Dosunmu followed up a career-high 34-point game on Saturday by logging 23 points and 10 rebounds in a crucial contribution to Monday’s win. This was the first time in Dosunmu’s career that he recorded back-to-back games with 20 or more points. He has scored at least 20 points in 11 games this season.

2. Alex Caruso plays through injury — again.

Injury concerns are nothing new for Alex Caruso, but Monday highlighted the importance of the guard’s ability to play through pain.

Caruso had most recently landed on the injury report with left toe soreness, but was cleared to play against Portland on Monday. Early in the game, he landed awkwardly on Deandre Ayton’s foot and rolled his ankle. After attempting to remain in the game, the injury forced him to burn a foul to be subbed out and head to the locker room, where he was taped up before returning to the court.

Caruso ultimately played 31 minutes, logging five points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals in addition to the game-winning block.

3. DeMar DeRozan’s minutes keep piling up.

Playing against the Blazers — who rank second-to-last in the Western Conference with only 19 wins to their name — should have been close to a rest game for the Bulls. But landing in the clutch also added an extra burden for DeMar DeRozan, who played 40 minutes as he continues to lead the league in total minutes this season (2527.1).

It’s unexpected for a team to rely so heavily on a 34-year-old veteran. But the Bulls lose momentum when DeRozan isn’t on the court, a fact that was highlighted by Monday’s lost lead.

Despite the toll, DeRozan continued to shrug off the impact of this volume.

“I really, really try to take great care of myself,” DeRozan said. “I try to rest. I don’t have no other hobbies that cause me to exert any energy. I love playing the game no matter how many minutes it is. I just love being out there.”

4. Andre Drummond exited with a chipped tooth.

The Bulls planned to close with a two-big rotation featuring Andre Drummond and Vučević, but were forced to change plans at the 2:28 mark when Drummond took a blow to the face. The center immediately stopped play and called for a timeout, grabbing at his face.

After the game, the team confirmed that Drummond had chipped a front tooth. Coach Billy Donovan was uncertain what treatment Drummond would require for the injury.