Even after everyone submitted their comments, it's confusing what went wrong on Bulls' bad inbounds play late in loss to Clippers


CHICAGO (670 The Score) – In what seemed symbolic for how the Bulls’ season has played out, no one threw anyone under the bus nor did anyone clearly, fully explain or take accountability for a mistake in a key sequence late in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers on Tuesday evening at the United Center.

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The official box score will forever show that Bulls guard Zach LaVine lost the ball to commit a turnover with 5.2 seconds left as the Bulls trailed 106-103, but that mishap was set in motion by what transpired before it as guard Alex Caruso surveyed his options for a pass on a sideline out-of-bounds play with 10.8 seconds on the clock.

LaVine and forward DeMar DeRozan ended up near one another on the right wing as Caruso fired a bounce pass inbounds from the near sideline. LaVine had a hard time corralling the ball because Clippers star Kawhi Leonard – one of the premier defenders in the game – got a hand on the pass as he closely guarded DeRozan in the same area. After a little chaos, Clippers forward Nicolas Batum came up with the loose ball on a play that was credited as a steal by Leonard.

LaVine had started the play by looking like he was going behind the 3-point arc near the top of the key, but he then changed his direction when Clippers forward Nicolas Batum switched onto him and took that route away. Certainly, something went wrong the Bulls – they just wouldn’t reveal exact details, other than Caruso confirming the pass was intended for LaVine and not DeRozan.

“We didn’t execute the play very well,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said in opening his postgame press conference.

“We needed to be better there. I think it’s something we can learn from. It’s something, we’ve worked on that. But I think, with them defensively being small, they’re going to switch everything, so you got to kind of manipulate who you’re screening in those situations. We just got to be better in that situation.”

So why exactly did LaVine and DeRozan end up in the same area?

“We didn’t execute the play,” Donovan responded simply.

Did someone break the play off?

“No,” Donovan said. “We didn’t execute the play. No one broke it off. We’ve got to execute the play better.”

So who was Caruso attempting to throw it to?

“Well, there was basically two options, actually three options on the play with the way we initially lined up, with the way we were cutting on the play,” Donovan said. “We didn’t execute the cuts like we needed to. We just needed to do better from where we were. So the spacing became really, really poor on the play. I believe he was basically trying to go to Zach with the ball is what I thought. But obviously, the spacing with he and DeMar was not great.”

When he conducted his postgame interview, DeRozan hadn’t yet rewatched the turnover.

“I know the sequence of the play,” DeRozan said. “Once I look back, it seemed like we were taking too long to get it in. They probably did a good job switching. I haven’t looked at it. But we had a couple options to look at it and (Nikola Vucevic) popping back to the ball. By the time I saw Vooch didn’t get it, I think we were just trying to get the ball inbounds. We were just all over the place.”

Caruso explained that he was trying to lead LaVine with his pass and that there was “miscommunication on our part of who the ball was intended for.”

“For the most part, we ran the play that we were supposed to run,” Caruso said. “We maybe just didn’t execute the screening aspect on how they were guarding it. Because they were switching everything, so maybe we could’ve screened our own better or broke open better.”

It marked the second time in eight days that the Bulls committed a crucial late turnover on an inbounds pass, as they also did so in a close loss to the Pacers on Jan. 24. It has left them frustrated as they dropped to 23-27.

“A pin for me to go up to the top, but they were switching, so I just tried to make a cut and get open,” LaVine said. “Me and DeMar cut to the same area.

“We talked about (their switching), but we went with the play. Still got to try to get open somehow, someway. I just tried to break my cut off, because I think Batum switched out. They switch a lot. We could have did something that was a little different or just tried to obviously get the ball in. Alex made the right play.”

Perhaps Caruso did, but the Bulls as a whole sure didn't when the game was once again on the line.

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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