Life wasn’t fair for the Bulls in the final seconds Monday. They might want to get used to that.
Short-handed in the frontcourt and with no real help on the way any time soon, they fell 105-101 to the Wizards in an ugly game at the United Center.
Undersized against most of the Wizards’ lineups, the Bulls (9-14) still found the game there for the taking with 29.2 seconds left. After guard Coby White cut the deficit to one, the Wizards (6-15) called a timeout to draw up a play for All-Star guard Bradley Beal, who attacked the rim and drew a foul with 9.8 seconds left. But Beal left the door open when he missed his first free throw, making the second, to put the Bulls down two.
Guard Zach LaVine, who had gone head-to-head with Beal all night, attacked the left side of the rim on the Bulls’ next possession but missed a layup, allowing the Wizards to grab the rebound and then ice the game at the free-throw line.
Life without frontcourt players Wendell Carter Jr. (quadriceps), Lauri Markkanen (shoulder), Otto Porter Jr. (back) and Chandler Hutchison (personal reasons) became painfully real.
“From the five-minute mark to maybe the three-minute mark [left in the game], I thought we got a little too frantic,” coach Billy Donovan said. “One of the things for our team that was a problem is their size hurt us with some of our frontcourt guys being out. That was a factor for us.”
Second-year big man Daniel Gafford doesn’t need his coaches or teammates to tell him how he has been playing lately. He’s proving to be his toughest critic, as was the case again Monday.
The former Arkansas standout, starting again for Carter, got into foul trouble early after a solid start. He picked up a technical and was frustrated much of the game.
“I’ve been playing — excuse my language — [crappy], to be honest,” Gafford said. “I kind of get in my own head sometimes. And when you get in your own head, you can go into a dark place and it’s hard to be able to pull yourself out of that. But luckily, I’ve got great guys on the team that helps me get out of that situation.
“If I’m in my own funk, I’m no good for the team at all. At that point, I’m really focusing on ‘I’ more than ‘we,’ but that’s not winning basketball.”
Old man Thad
Forward Thad Young’s minutes have been monitored in back-to-back games. Donovan said the best way to manages minutes is for the 14-year vet to simply communicate.
“He knows his body extremely well,” Donovan said. “He knows the grinds and rigors of an NBA season. And just checking in with him.
“I think right now we have a very, very productive and effective player with the way he has played these last couple weeks. We need to make sure he’s playing at a high level. We have a lot of games jam-packed in a short period of time, and we really have to make sure that he — all of these guys aren’t going to be fresh, I get it — is still being productive and he’s not just logging so many minutes because of the absence of some frontcourt players.”