Bulls-Warriors: Zach LaVine injury gives way to another blowout loss

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  • Chicago Bulls
    Chicago Bulls
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Golden State Warriors
    Golden State Warriors
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  • Zach LaVine
    Zach LaVine
    American professional basketball player
  • Stephen Curry
    Stephen Curry
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11 observations: Warriors hand Bulls second straight rout originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls entered Friday's matchup with the Warriors set on bouncing back from Wednesday's drubbing at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets.

However, Golden State's eventual 138-96 victory not only marked the Bulls' second night allowing an opponent-season-high 138 points on their home floor, but also their largest margin of defeat of the season.

Here are 11 observations from the somber affair:

1. Zach LaVine ominously exited this one after 3 minutes, 32 seconds with what the team later termed a left knee injury.

The backdrop: After a missed 3-point attempt by Lonzo Ball, LaVine intentionally fouled Steph Curry and immediately exited to the locker room under his own power. He didn’t return, won't travel to Boston with the team on Friday, and is set for an MRI by Saturday at the latest – the results of which far outweigh the importance of anything written below.

MORE: Bulls optimistic as LaVine heads for MRI on knee injury

2. The Bulls’ recent defensive slippage, which entering play had resulted in a 20th-ranked unit in the team’s last 12 games, was on display again early on – and it was everyone but Curry doing the damage on the Warriors’ side.

By first quarter’s end, at which point Golden State had 37 points, both Andrew Wiggins (12 points, 5-for-6 shooting) and Jordan Poole (11 points, 3-for-5 from 3-point range) were in double figures. Curry had just two points on four shot attempts (which included three 3-point misses).

3. But matters really unraveled in the second quarter, which the Warriors routed 41-19.

A multitude of cracks formed in that period, but the Bulls’ looseness with the basketball stood out most. In the second quarter alone, they committed seven turnovers, off which the Warriors scored 14 points. All seven turnovers were Golden State steals.

Ball was the worst repeat offender. He gave away three errant passes in the second (on his way to five turnovers in the first half), which led directly to seven Warriors points on a Curry 3, Jonathan Kuminga dunk and Otto Porter Jr. pull-up.

4. But the worst individual offense was by Nikola Vučević, who, with roughly 30 seconds left in the half, lackadaisically tossed an inbounds pass that was stolen by Porter Jr. and shoveled to Curry for a 3 that expanded the Warriors’ advantage to 78-47.

The culmination of the Bulls’ careless play was a smattering of boos as they walked off the court following the second quarter. That’s a far cry from the reception this team has typically received at the United Center this season.

5. The Warriors’ 78 first-half points were a Bulls opponent season-high. Turnovers aside, they shot 57.7 percent from the field – 11-for-24 from 3 – and pulled down seven offensive rebounds en route to that total, out-hustling and out-witting the Bulls at every turn.

Those latter points are especially jarring. Yes, the Bulls are missing key players, and LaVine’s surprise exit had a chilling effect. But this is a team that’s grinded its way to victories, and prided themselves on having a high collective basketball IQ, all season. This is now two games in a row in which they have allowed opponent runs to snowball into avalanches – and demoralizing losses.

6. DeRozan called the performance "not us" at either end. When asked the most uncharacteristic aspect on the defensive side, he was frank.

"The effort wasn't there," DeRozan said. "We was a step slow, a step behind. Fouling. Giving up easy shots. Transition. Kind of a snowball effect of a different combination of things that bit us in the butt."

Donovan opined bad habits, which he added can't be "cured in a timeout."

"We have to build habits as a team on the things we can control," he said. "Transition defense. Communication. Blocking out. Pulling across. Taking care of the ball. Those are the things that have nothing to do, in my opinion, with injuries and people being out."

7. Curry eventually got rolling with a six-point spurt and end-of-quarter 3 in the second and two triples in the third. He finished with 19 points and four 3s in 28 minutes, checking out for the final time before the start of the fourth.

The Bulls initially threw Ball at him, then later Coby White, but without Alex Caruso, who guards Curry as well as anyone in the league, there wasn’t an ideal matchup.

8. Adding insult to injury for the Bulls fans in attendance and watching from home: Porter Jr. looked downright spry. The former Bulls forward turned Warriors role player stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals, disrupting with his length defensively and disturbing with his shotmaking at the other end.

Porter Jr.’s stint with the Bulls, which spanned roughly two-and-a-half seasons but resulted in just 54 game appearances, was fraught by injury. Even now, he is not the player he was when he initially signed his max offer sheet with the Nets, which was matched by the Wizards, in 2017. But he’s certainly affecting winning now.

9. Troy Brown Jr. slid into the Bulls’ starting lineup with Derrick Jones Jr. the latest power forward to join Javonte Green and Patrick Williams on the shelf. But Alfonzo McKinnie started the second half in that slot, with White sliding into LaVine’s place.

LaVine isn’t expected to travel to Boston for the second leg of the Bulls’ home-road back-to-back on Saturday, so even more rotational creativity from Donovan will be required. Even before garbage-time officially commenced, Matt Thomas saw some run at off-guard.

"Nobody about to come and save the day. It's on us to go out there and step up," DeRozan said. "These two games should be all the motivation that we need to step up, play hard, play for one another. It's just another challenge we have to face.

"We can't complain about it. We can't whine about it. We can't look for extra help. It's on us."

10. This is not only the second night in a row the Bulls folded in the face of an opponents’ surge, but also the second night in a row they’ve been run off their home floor by a contender.

And while the Bulls were short-handed, so were the Warriors, who played without Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and defensive swiss army knife Gary Payton II. The second half wasn’t as bad as the first – how could it have been? – but Golden State still won it 60-49 to hand the Bulls’ their largest defeat of the season.

"I think that, from a competitive standpoint, you go out there and you try to control the things that you can control. And I think we can do a better job of that," Donovan said. "There's no excuses. I look at the Atlanta team we played against. You want to go through the list of guys they had out, when we played against them twice?

"There's enough for us to compete better than we did. I just really believe that. I think it would be unfair as a coach to do that to the group there, to say to them: 'Hey listen guys. I know we've got some guys out, and some good defenders, and once we get them back we'll be OK, but for right now let's just get through this.'"

11. There was another emblematic sequence, similar to Vučević’s sloppy second-quarter pass, in the closing seconds of the third quarter – after which Billy Donovan didn’t return his starters.

The Warriors pulled ahead by 43 points on a four-point play where Poole was fouled by Ayo Dosunmu on a made 3-pointer; then, after a made Thomas 3, Kuminga leaked out behind the Bulls’ defense for a wide open dunk. Kuminga’s game-high 25 points were a product of concentration lapses leading to wide-open cuts and finishes.

It wasn’t pretty. But, in DeRozan's words:

"It’s definitely a learning experience for us all... Got our butt kicked two nights in a row. Now it’s how we respond.”

Next up: At Boston for a matchup with the Celtics on Saturday.

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