The final stretch of the Chicago Bulls’ regular season is crucial as a last chance to tune up for the playoffs and a window to secure optimal seeding. Neither of those goals were serviced in an uneven game that ultimately saw Orlando top Chicago 105-103 on a Victor Oladipo drive with just seconds remaining.
One would think that the Bulls would match up favorably in such a scenario, given that Jimmy Butler, who checked Oladipo on the play, ranks as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and boasts a size advantage. Chicago ran into trouble, though, when Butler sat on Oladipo’s right hand expecting the young guard to cross back to his dominant hand as is typical for him. Oladipo surprised. With a few hard dribbles to his left, Oladipo kept Butler at bay before slinking past Joakim Noah with just enough of a window to score. His basket put Orlando up two points with 1.5 seconds remaining.
[daily_cut.NBA]On the subsequent possession, the Bulls attempted to lob a pass over the top of the defense out of a sideline inbound opportunity. Oladipo was able to disrupt Gasol to the point of denying him the catch, turning the Bulls over as the ball deflected off of Gasol in the scramble.
Orlando’s successful pass in bounds sealed the finish, which pushed Chicago out of the the No. 3 seed in the East and spoiled Derrick Rose’s return from injury. Cleveland clinched the Central Division in addition to the second seed with Chicago's loss.
Rose scored nine points in 19 minutes for his first action in 20 games.