Chicago Bulls Weekly: Fourth-Quarter Woes An Ongoing Issue For Bulls

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Dec 31, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) reacts to being fouled by Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half at the United Center. Toronto won 85-79. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth quarter has been more “get crunched” time than crunch time for the Chicago Bulls in 2013-14. Of their 18 losses, four of them have come when the Bulls squandered a fourth-quarter lead.

The problem reared its ugly head again this week, when Chicago was outscored by the Toronto Raptors 28-17 over the final 12 minutes en route to an 85-79 loss.

“We’re disappointed in our fourth quarter tonight,” forward Luol Deng told ESPNChicago.com after the loss on Tuesday night. “They ended the third quarter well and had a run. They were the better team in the fourth quarter to finish the game.”

It’s a problem that stems from being without Derrick Rose; the Bulls don’t have anyone who is particularly proficient at creating their own shot down the stretch and their offense can get bogged down late in games.

When the offense breaks down, the defense often follows—as was the case against the surging Raptors.

“We weren’t executing and we weren’t guarding,” guard Jimmy Butler said. “And that can never be good. For us, I think it starts on defense and then that transition will take over on our offense but we weren’t doing either the way that we’re capable of.”

The Bulls struggle to score regardless of what point in the game it is, shooting just 42.2 percent from the floor this season, but in the fourth quarter that figure drops to 39.3 percent.

For the season, Chicago has an offensive rating of 96.3 points per 100 possessions compared to a defensive rating of 97.8.

But in the fourth quarter, that changes. The offense is slightly more efficient (98.4), but the defense is considerably worse (102.0).

Opponents shoot 42.9 percent against the Bulls this season, but hit at a 43 percent clip in the fourth quarter.

So while Chicago shoots considerably worse late in games, their opponents stay right around the same rate.

It’s a troubling phenomenon for a team that is currently 14-18. While they have four losses in which they’ve blown fourth-quarter leads, they have just one win in a game in which they trailed after three periods.

As far as last week went, the Bulls had a solid week, winning three of four, winning in Memphis on Monday before the Tuesday night loss to the Raptors. They finished the week with wins over the Celtics and Hawks on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

Chicago is currently 14-18, and has moved into the playoff mix in sixth place in the East, 1½ games ahead of the ninth-place Boston Celtics. The Bulls trail the Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers by 12 games, but have also moved past the Pistons into second place.

Here is the week that was, including game reviews, some news and notes, the rookie watch, injury updates, a look at the Bulls’ stats for the week and season and player of the week selection, as well as a look ahead to next week’s action (all statistical information from NBA.com/Stats):

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