If you wanted a microcosm of this Chicago Bulls season, the final 3 minutes, 46 seconds of their season-ending loss to the Miami Heat is a good place to start.
After Coby White’s 3-pointer with 3:47 left pushed them ahead 90-87, the Bulls scored one point the rest of the way.
Zach LaVine, who suffered through a nightmare game of 6-for-21 with five turnovers, missed three shots. White missed two. DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso missed one each.
That’s right: With the season on the line, the Bulls went 0-for-7 down the stretch of another clutch loss, defined as a game within five points with 5 minutes left. A winnable game, there for the taking, and the Bulls’ offense failed to produce.
“This one hurts. I ain’t gonna lie. It’s a expletive feeling right now. It sucks. It shouldn’t have ended like that,” DeRozan said. “We gave ourself an opportunity to win the game. We were up. We can’t make the mistakes that we made. Now we’re sitting in our reality with nothing to do.”
That’s the story of the Bulls’ season, one in which the individual talent never realized its full collective potential. A team built around three offensive-minded players in DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic produced the 24-ranked offense.
The win saw Chicago reach the next stage of the Play-In tournament, where it will face the Miami Heat for a spot in the playoffs to face the No. 1-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite her seeming impact and instant popularity, dad DeRozan was keen to stress that while Diar got a day off school to travel to Toronto – the city she was born in and spent the first few years of her life in – she wouldn’t be traveling down to Miami for the team’s next game.
United Airlines, which is headquartered in Chicago and owns the naming rights to the Bulls’ United Center home, offered to pay for the flights down to Miami so she could work her magic.
“The flight’s on us. What do you say, DeMar DeRozan?” United Airlines tweeted. “We’d love to take Diar’s talents to South Beach.”
Fellow Bulls star Zach LaVine that they were figuring how to get Diar to Miami “in the background.”
He added: “I think the teachers are gonna give her a hall pass for the day.”
Even the official Bulls Twitter account weighed in: “To Diar DeRozan’s teacher: may we kindly request Diar be excused from school on Friday.”
However, despite everyone’s best efforts, DeRozan stuck true to his word and confirmed on Friday that Diar will not be at the Kaseya Center on Friday night after he told reporters she was back in Chicago.
“Sometimes it don’t come down to just talent. It comes down to understanding the IQ of the game, being better, smarter. We showed spurts of it. But the good teams have that mental focus and approach every single day, even tough days. We were kind of up and down with that. We showed spurts of it. It’s on every individual player to come back better.”
This season’s Bulls squandered multiple winnable games all season. Three late-game calls went against them, creating an uproar the next day when Last Two Minute Report came out. They also lost six games with leads of 16 points or more.
The Bulls created this hole and did play better down the stretch, going 14-9 after Patrick Beverley’s arrival and the All-Star break to create this play-in opportunity. That’s why not taking advantage of the chance to extend this momentum into a first-round playoff matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks stung so much.
“We were just talking about it. You don’t want to go home, especially after these two games,” LaVine said. “It has to hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not in the right business. I care for everybody here. I appreciate how much everybody put into it. We really did try to sneak in after having a season where we were not playing to our potential.
“It’s disappointing. Everybody individually has a lot of talent. We got a lot of high-level players on this team. But somehow, you gotta make it work. Top to bottom, we have to do a better job of thinking about the next person and finding a way to win no matter what. We let too many slide in the beginning of the year and then had to pick it up second half of the season in desperation mode. If you come out that way, I think it’s a whole different season.”
LaVine owned his poor shooting night, saying nobody judges himself harder than himself. His disappointment in the missed opportunity was palpable.
But in the end, the Bulls have nobody to blame but themselves. A team built around three high-salaried offensive players didn’t even make the playoffs.
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