By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — True to their confounding form, the Bulls submitted one of their best offensive first halves of the season Saturday.
Then they submitted their worst offensive quarter.
In a 101-91 loss to the Clippers at the United Center, the Bulls took a 61-55 lead into halftime, only to be outscored 27-12 in the third quarter, mustering an ugly 3-of-17 shooting line to go with seven turnovers. The 12 points tied for the fewest Chicago has scored in a period this season, and its 30 second-half points were just two more than its season-low in that department.
It left coach Fred Hoiberg ruing why his Bulls forgot their formula for success — notably pushing the ball in transition and utilizing crisp passing while attacking the hoop.
“We go out in the first half and we’re free flowing,” Hoiberg said.
“The ball was moving. Everyone was playing for each other. The second half, we missed shots, we didn’t get calls and it affected us. It affected us on the other end. We talked about this last week in the Denver game in the second half. We got to find a way to fight through the tough times, understand what makes us a successful team. When we get it up the floor, we’re pretty tough to stop. That all stopped the second half.”
The Bulls’ stagnant second-half offense came on a night in which star Jimmy Butler had an uncharacteristically limited offensive workload. Butler scored 16 points and had six assists, but he attempted just seven shots from the floor, making four. His seven attempts were one off his season low of six, which came in a game he left early due to sickness.
The Clippers ran double teams at Butler at times, though he wasn’t sure that tactic was much different than usual. What Butler was more sure of was that he was playing the right way, even if it meant having less of a direct effect on the game.
“I want to get everybody involved,” Butler said. “I think that what coaches want me to do. I think that’s what everybody wants me to do. I’m trying to do. I think we all know I can shoot the ball any time — good shot, bad shot — but I don’t want to do that. I don’t care what my stats look like, man. Just win me the game.
“I just continue to pass the ball to the open guy.”
The most involved player of the night was 36-year-old veteran Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, whom the Bulls drafted eighth overall in 2000. Crawford scored a game-high 25 points, including 17 in the second half, and many came on jump shots in the face of Bulls defenders.
“You can’t do nothing when he’s going like that,” said Bulls guard Dwyane Wade, who had 10 points on just 2-of-11 shooting. “We’re taking the ball out of the basket. It wasn’t a lot of defensive breakdowns as much as it was them guys making shots.”
The loss dropped the Bulls to 31-31, and they sit along in seventh place, a half-game behind the Pacers and a game ahead of the eighth-place Pistons. Chicago visits Detroit on Monday evening.
“We still have a ways to go — not a long way,” Butler said. “I don’t have concerns. We just have to do better. Tonight, we didn’t do our job on either end of the floor.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.