Wednesday night almost brought about a perfect storm of badness actually being good in the NBA. The four worst teams in the NBA in terms of record — the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings — all held leads going into the fourth quarter.
Naturally, all four teams lost.
One can forgive the Mavericks and Kings for their defeats. Dallas held a slim three-point margin heading into the final frame against the league-leading Boston Celtics. Sacramento led by only five in Cleveland against a Cavalier squad that entered on a 12-game winning streak. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did their clutch things to lead their respective teams to victory.
The Bulls and Hawks, though, executed some truly stellar tanking. Chicago’s performance was especially epic.
The Bulls entered Wednesday’s bout against the Indiana Pacers 3-19 and on a nine-game losing streak. But for the first 40-ish minutes of the contest, Chicago made Indiana look like the 3-19 team. The Bulls’ 30th-ranked offense was whipping the ball around the floor and scoring at will, while the Pacers were sleepwalking. Chicago led by as many as 17 points and held a 13-point lead with just over seven minutes to go.
That’s when the Bulls flipped to Tank Mode. Chicago managed only four points the rest of the game to blow its big lead and lose, 98-96. Bad shots and turnovers galore marred the final seven minutes, with a hilarious Denzel Valentine miscue leading to Victor Oladipo’s go-ahead bucket in the final minute:
Second-year point guard Kris Dunn basically admitted the Bulls didn’t know what they were doing offensively down the stretch:
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 7, 2017
Not great, Bob! Or maybe it is great, if losses are the only thing that matters. The Bulls now have 20 of them, which is one more than the Hawks after they blew their own fourth-quarter lead against the Orlando Magic.
Atlanta’s collapse wasn’t quite as bad, but the Hawks gave up a nine-point lead in the final frame in Orlando. The Hawks also led by three in the final seconds, but D.J. Augustin tied the game with a triple:
Atlanta didn’t get a shot off and ultimately lost 110-106 in overtime to fall to 5-19. The Bulls and Hawks are really good at losing games.
The Mavericks hold the third-worst record in the league at 7-18, though they’ve started to resemble a competent team. In fact, they’re 5-4 over their last nine games after starting 2-14. The Kings are right “behind” Dallas at 7-17.
A surprise tanking team rounds out the bottom five: the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are 1-12 in their last 13 games after a 7-4 start to give them an 8-16 mark overall. Many of these losses have come without Mike Conley, so the expectation is they’ll turn things around when he gets healthy. The front office has claimed it won’t blow things up, even after firing head coach David Fizdale, so it would be a surprise if the Grizzlies stay in this position.
The Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are all in this picture as well. The Clippers are an intriguing case given their injuries and the DeAndre Jordan situation. If they move Jordan for assets, it could be full tank ahead.
Here’s the current lottery situation, via Tankathon.com:
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