The Bulls entered their home game Wednesday against the Warriors with a swagger about them, a confidence seldom seen from a team 10 games below .500.
‘‘Very confident,’’ guard Zach LaVine insisted. ‘‘We think we can play with anybody and beat anybody on any given day. That’s how the game goes. You put yourself in those type of positions to let the game play out and see what happens.’’
For a half, the Bulls did just that. They spaced and paced right alongside the defending champion Warriors, even taking a three-point lead at halftime.
Then playtime was over.
Klay Thompson (38 points) made three quick three-pointers at the start of the second half, Stephen Curry (30 points) began doing Stephen Curry things and the Bulls trailed by 17 points by the time the third quarter ended. The Bulls were outscored 32-12 in the quarter.
RELATED STORIES NBA champs have rave reviews for Lauri Markkanen, Fred Hoiberg, rebuilding Bulls Warriors’ season reminds Steve Kerr of Bulls’ ‘slog’ to last title of Jordan era
Yes, playtime definitely was over.
‘‘We lost our spirit [in the third quarter],’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 119-112 loss. ‘‘We came out flat in the third, and this team as much as any will make you pay when you make the mistakes that we made on the defensive end.
‘‘When they smell blood, there’s nobody better at jumping on you. Hopefully, we learn from it.’’
Sure, there was the usual fourth-quarter fight this young Bulls team frequently has displayed in the last month. But fight, effort and all the nice-sounding coaching clichés only can overcome so much.
‘‘It’s about the talent,’’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said when he was asked about his team’s system changing the way the rest of the NBA is trying to play. ‘‘We happen to have some of the most talented players in the world.’’
And the Bulls (17-28) don’t. They think they are venturing down that path with players such as LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, but the game was another reminder of just how far they are behind the Warriors’ model.
‘‘I don’t know if we’re trying to go right after what they do,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘What we’re trying to do is take their winning pedigree. We all want to be in the same position that they’ve been the last four years. . . . So I think that’s the most that you try and take away from their team.’’
Even more impressive for the Warriors (37-9) was that they tied a franchise record with their 14th consecutive road victory, and they did so with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala resting. Their depth further was tested when rookie Jordan Bell had to be wheeled off the court with an injured left ankle 24 seconds into the game.
But Bell wasn’t the only casualty of the night. Dunn pulled the Bulls to 112-107 on a dunk with 2:55 left, but he fell on his face when his fingers slipped off the rim and had to be helped off the court with blood coming from his mouth.
A statement from the Bulls said Dunn chipped and dislocated two front teeth. The statement also said he was evaluated for a concussion and will be re-evaluated Thursday.
‘‘There was a good little chunk that he took out of the floor,’’ Hoiberg said of the damage caused in the fall. ‘‘He didn’t lose teeth. . . . Tough kid.’’
The Warriors showed little sympathy, scoring five consecutive points before a three-pointer by Markkanen.
Then after the Bulls — who were led by Nikola Mirotic’s 24 points — pulled to five again with 17.4 seconds left, it was free-throw time. That’s another aspect of the game the Warriors excel at (22-for-25).
‘‘They did what champions do,’’ Bulls forward Justin Holiday said. ‘‘And they do it well.’’
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.