It was comeback city in Chicago last night, as the Bulls and the Bears both mounted fourth quarter efforts against their respective opponents, to — ahem — varied success.
The Bears were down 20-6 heading into the final 15 minutes against the Steelers, and the Bulls were slowly coming back into the game after losing an early lead in a disastrous 16-point second quarter. While the Bulls’ comeback didn’t begin with an enormous deficit, this win over the Nets pulled them out of a two-loss slump as they dropped back-to-back matchups against the 76ers last week.
Let’s start with the good news. Kevin Durant put up Kevin Durant numbers in Monday night’s game — 38 points and 10 rebounds — but James Harden struggled a bit, going just 7-of-18 from the field. It was the fourth quarter that changed everything in a close game — the Bulls seemingly just couldn’t miss, as they racked up 42 points in the final 12 minutes compared to the Nets’ 17-point fourth quarter performance. While Kyrie Irving’s absence can’t really be used as an excuse anymore, as the Nets have adjusted to playing without one of their expected stars, they’re still missing some sort of answer to the hole he’s left on the court.
It seemed like Australian newcomer Patty Mills might be one of those answers after going 7-of-7 from deep in a Nets’ loss to the reigning champion Bucks a few weeks ago. But yesterday, the answer may have shifted to the shoulders of Lamarcus Aldridge, who put up 19 points from the Nets’ bench after coming back from retirement for a year-long contract in Brooklyn.
But when it comes down to it, there’s never a real answer for a 42-point, fourth-quarter barrage, and the Bulls continue their improbable run sitting at third place in the Eastern Conference after a shining slate of offensive rebounds and six different players contributing in double digits. In Chicago, you learn young not to get your hopes up for your teams, but things just keep working out for the Bulls. We’re a long way out from playoffs, though, so I’ll just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
On the bad news front, the Bears’ fourth quarter comeback was derailed by a controversial taunting call, a great Steelers kicker, and the ironic challenge that is “scoring too fast.” When Chicago got the ball back with under three minutes left, they barely used up sixty seconds heading back down the field to score. While the 75-yard drive was a great look for Justin Fields’ future and showed his clear continuing improvement with the squad, it also gave Pittsburgh plenty of time to come back and kick a go-ahead field goal that left the Bears coming up short yet again — literally.
The “maybe next year” mantra will start up again as Fields gives Chicago fans that eternally dangerous seed of hope, taking the title of PFF’s highest-graded QB this week after a 291-yard performance on Monday night. He’s young, he’s improving, but lest we forget — he’s on Matt Nagy’s Bears. They’ll face the Ravens at home this weekend.