The Chicago Bulls still are struggling in the clutch.
After a sloppy night of ballhandling, the Bulls found themselves behind in the final five minutes of regulation Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. And despite forcing overtime with a 10-point comeback — and even taking a one-point lead with 0.5 seconds left in overtime — the Bulls couldn’t close in a 123-122 loss on AJ Griffin’s alley-oop at the buzzer.
The Bulls are now 3-9 in clutch games, which the NBA defines as games with a margin of five or fewer points in the final five minutes.
DeMar DeRozan scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Bulls their first lead since the second quarter with 3:32 remaining in regulation. But when DeRozan missed a potential game-winning shot with 3.1 seconds to play, it was backup forward Derrick Jones Jr. who came to the rescue by snagging a rebound and getting fouled.
The effort only prolonged the inevitable for the Bulls. Jones missed the second free throw and the game went to overtime, where DeRozan appeared ready once more to win the game after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt with 0.5 seconds remaining and sinking all three free throws for a 122-121 lead.
But Griffin answered with his game-winner on an inbounds lob from Jalen Johnson.
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DeRozan led the Bulls with 34 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Jones finished with 14 points and closed the game alongside Coby White, who added 12 points off the bench. Andre Drummond contributed 14 points, nine rebounds and five steals off the bench.
Bogdan Bogdanović led the Hawks with 28 points, including six 3-pointers.
The loss was the second game of a back-to-back for the Bulls, who beat the Dallas Mavericks at home Saturday night before flying to Atlanta. It was the second back-to-back of the season for Zach LaVine, who sat out at least one game of the first three back-to-backs as he ramped back up from offseason knee surgery.
LaVine scored 21 points but struggled to control the ball in the first half and logged seven turnovers on the night. After a strong first quarter, the Bulls fell into a midgame slump and wound up allowing 23 points on 18 turnovers in a careless night of ball protection.
Javonte Green returned in the second quarter after missing three games with a bone bruise in his right knee. Coach Billy Donovan previously said he planned to move the power forward back into the starting lineup in place of Patrick Williams once he was fully healthy, but Green played less than 15 minutes as he eased back into the rotation. He finished with two points, three rebounds and four turnovers.
The Bulls took a blow in the second quarter when Ayo Dosunmu exited after attempting to make a layup in transition over Hawks guard Trae Young. Dosunmu fell on top of Young’s knee as he tumbled to the hardwood, suffering an abdominal bruise.
It’s unclear whether Dosunmu will be able to return later this week, which creates a new concern at point guard after Alex Caruso was sidelined with a tailbone injury in the Mavericks game.