Maybe I’m just a cynic, but when the Bulls took a 14-point halftime lead against the Lakers last night, I felt really nervous. Everything went Chicago’s way in that first half, right down to their final two possessions of the second quarter: A double-pump layup by Derrick Rose with 28 seconds left and a buzzer-beating three by John Salmons to end the half. It was a charmed 24 minutes.
And I just didn’t believe it would last.
The Bulls honestly couldn’t have played much better. I knew the Lakers, on the other hand, were capable of playing much better…particularly since they had a halftime to get psyched up and make the necessary adjustments. I was afraid if L.A. upped the intensity of the game, the Bulls might come unglued. Turns out that’s pretty much what happened.
The Bulls committed turnover after turnover — they finished with 23 — and the Lakers took advantage, scoring 27 points off those miscues. L.A. had trimmed the lead to six (87-81) by the start of the fourth quarter and then the wheels came off completely. Joakim Noah got called for a three-second violation on Chicago’s first possession. Less than a minute later, Sasha Vujacic stole a pass from Kirk Hinrich. A little over a minute after that, Lamar Odom intercepted Derrick Rose. Luke Walton stole Ben Gordon’s pass on the Bulls’ next possession. A little while later, Ben Gordon was called for traveling. Rose lost the ball (to Jordan Farmar) on the next possession. Then Brad Miller had a pass swiped by Odom.
The next thing you know, the Lakers had ripped off a 21-6 run to open the quarter…all while Kobe Bryant (28 points, a game-high 7 assists and a game-high 5 steals) was watching from the bench. And L.A. never looked back. Said Rose: “We were turning the ball over and when you do that in this league, anyone will beat you.” Especially when that “anyone” is (depending on whom you ask) the first or second-best team in the league.
Nobody was more careless with the ball than Gordon, who lost the rock seven times while shooting 5-for-14 and missing six of his eight three-point attempts. Rose (25 points, 10-for-19, 5 rebounds, 4 assists), Salmons (a game-high 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting) and Tyrus Thomas (15 points, 7-for-13, a game-high 16 boards and 3 blocks) all played really well, but the Lakers took 14 more shots (but only one fewer free throw), hit five more three-pointers and turned the ball over only 11 times. Those are pretty significant advantages.
So, basically, turnovers killed the Bulls. And the biggest turnover of the night was when a few pockets of the United Center crowed broke into an “M-V-P!” chant for Kobe. That’s what we call salt in the wound.
The only positive is that the loss didn’t cost Chicago in the standings: The Bulls still lead the Bobcats by a full game, the Bucks and Nets by a 1.5 games and the Pacers and Knicks by 3.5 games.
The jump shot watch: Tyrus missed only six shots. But it’s worth noting that two of those misses were from 20 feet and two of them were from 19 feet. (The other was a 12-footer.)