Bulls lose another heartbreaker and have only themselves to blame

It seemed like DeMar DeRozan would once again play hero, hitting three free throws in the overtime with less than a second left on the clock. Then AJ Griffin happened.

SHARE Bulls lose another heartbreaker and have only themselves to blame
Derrick Jones Jr.

ATLANTA — Derrick Jones Jr. did almost everything right on the play. Almost.

And for a Bulls team that spends way too much time early in games seemingly OK with nonchalant turnovers and falling behind, almost can be haunting.

Even when there’s less than a second left on the clock and victory is at hand.

Thanks to an unbelievable twisting alley-oop lay-in at the horn by AJ Griffin — yes, the son of former Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin — the Hawks not only snatched victory away from the Bulls in the 123-122 overtime win, but also snatched a couple hearts along the way.

“We’ve had enough trial and error,’’ Bulls veteran DeMar DeRozan said. “We know what works when we do it right, and at this point we should know what doesn’t work when we’re doing it wrong. This one sucks, this one hurts.’’

DeRozan wasn’t alone in that feeling.

Jones was right there with him, especially after coming off the bench to help the Bulls overcome a 12-point deficit and having a chance to play hero.

With the game tied with 2.1 seconds left, Trae Young hit a 20-foot step-back jumper to give the Hawks a two-point lead.

Out of timeouts, it was DeRozan doing DeRozan things, catching the inbound pass beyond the three-point line, immediately putting up a shot and getting fouled by Bogdan Bogdanovic with 0.5 seconds left.

DeRozan made all three free throws, setting the stage for Griffin’s heroics.

Out of the first set, Young was the inbounder and had to call another timeout after the Bulls defended the back-cut perfectly. Jalen Johnson was the inbounder for the second attempt, and the Hawks used Young as a decoy, having him run off a stack of picks to pull the defense out.

Jones switched on to Griffin, but as Johnson tossed the ball up toward the hoop, Jones took his eye off it for a split-second. A split-second was all Griffin needed.

He caught the ball in the air and in one motion twisted his body to connect on the lay-in.

“It wasn’t going in the entire game . . . they drew a play for me and I really appreciate that,’’ Griffin said. “You’ve got a lot of things going on in your head, but you just want to get the shot off.’’

That would have been nearly impossible if the high-flying Jones had seen the ball.

“I did take my eye off the ball for a second, but I’ve just got to be better in that situation,’’ Jones said. “Honestly, if I would have seen the ball, nobody in this league jumps higher than me, so I would have definitely got that.’’

What Jones and the Bulls (11-15) got was another loss and more questions to answer, especially about a first half that was there for the taking if they only could have stayed out of their own way.

After playing a very clean game against the Mavericks just 24 hours earlier, the Bulls had questionable shot selection and didn’t take care of the ball. There were four turnovers by Zach LaVine in the first quarter alone, eight team turnovers by halftime and 15 by the end of the third quarter.

So while DeRozan’s 34 points and late-game heroics were nice, he wasn’t satisfied and didn’t want his team satisfied.

“We feel it now,’’ DeRozan said. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole, and now we’ve made it hard on ourselves where every single game is extremely important. That’s how we’ve got to approach it if we want to make something happen out of it.’’

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