The Chicago Bulls live under a sense of dread in the fourth quarter.

It’s only natural. They’ve squandered too many leads and choked in too many close games to feel any semblance of comfort in the late stages. And that nightmare nearly repeated itself Wednesday in Detroit.

The Bulls led the Pistons by 21 points with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. That should have been enough to cruise to a win. Instead the Bulls coughed up turnovers and took sloppy shots as the double-digit lead evaporated.

When Bojan Bogdanović sank a tying jumper with 2:48 left, it seemed to rattle home with an air of inevitability — there goes another one.

Ultimately, the Bulls escaped disaster with a 117-115 victory based on pure luck. With 9.7 seconds remaining and the Bulls up by two, Pistons guard Jaden Ivey called a timeout — only to realize they already had run out.

The error by the rookie guard bailed the Bulls out of another potential crash landing as Zach LaVine hit the technical free throw and the Pistons were forced to foul DeMar DeRozan, who hit a pair. .

The Bulls avoided a second straight loss, but the game nevertheless highlighted their struggles to hold leads — even against the bottom teams in the league.

The highs

  • In the opening minutes, LaVine couldn’t miss. He went 5-for-5 from the field in the first six minutes, scoring 12 points as he splashed heavily contested 3-pointers and rattled in slashing drives to the rim. He maintained this precision shooting throughout the game, finishing 14-for-20 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range to tally 41 points, two shy of his season high.
  • Coby White produced another well-rounded performance off the bench, creating an immediate spark on both ends of the court. He snagged three steals in an eight-minute stretch in the first half and finished with 14 points on 3-for-6 3-point shooting.
  • Patrick Beverley continued to contribute in a supporting role with eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the first half alone. He finished with five points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

The lows

  • The Bulls turned the ball over only four times in the first half, seemingly rectifying the main cause of their loss to the Toronto Raptors the night before. But they quickly slipped back into the pattern of poor ball protection, coughing up six turnovers in the third quarter and five in the fourth. The Pistons scored 22 points off the 15 Bulls turnovers.
  • Bogdanović scorched the Bulls from behind the 3-point arc, going 8-for-12 to score 34 points.
  • The Bulls were fairly efficient from the field in the first half and entered the fourth quarter 39-for-69 (56.5%). But the offense stumbled throughout the fourth quarter, making only 2 of 16 field goals as the Pistons focused relentlessly on keeping the ball out of LaVine’s hands.

The quote

“You see this team in the first 24 minutes of the game that’s playing unbelievable, beautiful basketball,” Donovan said. “Then you see a team looking lethargic, uninspired. It’s amazing to me, to be quite honest.

“I have a lot of hope and optimism with this group because you see the best of these guys. … We’ve got to eventually get that corrected where we just keep our foot on the gas.”

Where they stand

The Bulls improved to 29-34 and remain 11th in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot.

What comes next

The Bulls return home to face the Phoenix Suns on Friday.


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