Wins against the Cavaliers and Raptors may just have saved the Bulls from falling into the play in tournament.
*Deep sigh of relief*
Back to it. Regardless of their record, some of the Bulls flaws have been exposed over the last few weeks. They’ve got 8 more gets to sort things out as they position themselves somewhere between 5-7 in the East standings.
Shaking off mistakes
In losses to the Bucks and Pelicans, key moments in the games served as an inflection point between close competition and crumbling.
Against the Bucks, Coby White fouled Pat Connaughton on a three-point shot with 3:17 left in the first quarter. Following that play, the Bucks went on a 13-0 run and the Bulls never got back into the game.
Against the Pelicans, with 8:52 left in the 4th quarter, the Bulls down 90-95, Jose Alvarado sneak attacked Alex Caruso, forcing a travel following an inbounds pass. Following that play, the Pelicans went on a 12-2 run and the Bulls never got back into the game.
Troubling trend emerging…
“A lot of young players struggle with beating themselves up on mistakes and have a hard time moving past mistakes,” Billy Donovan told reporters prior to the Bulls game against the Cavs.
This is spot on. The Bulls have really struggled to get out of their own way lately and it has cost them more games than just those two.
With DeMar DeRozan slumping and Nikola Vucevic never reaching his peak level of performance, the Bulls are light on players that have the poise, experience and on-court ability to settle everyone down.
“Having a short term memory as a player, especially as a young player is really, really important,” Donovan said. “When guys live in a mistake of what they should have done or didn’t do and it affects other ends. It’s challenging for them to stay locked in on what they should have done next.”
Giving up an offensive rebound, missing a corner three, being late on a closeout can are simple errors that happen plenty of times during the course of an NBA game. It happens. The key is preventing it from snowballing and letting the game slip away. Get over it and onto the next play.
“We’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Donovan said. “Everybody knew, coming out of the All-Star Break what our schedule looked like. You’ve got to have a resiliency about you when things are not going well.”
Week ahead predictions:
Bulls went 2-2 last week and I did too. Not bad, but certainly not my best. On to the next one.
Monday @ Knicks: You know the New York Thibodeau’s always get up for the Bulls. They’re on a 3-game win streak, doing everything they can to squeak their way into the play-in. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Bulls will put them out of their misery.
Tuesday @ Wizards: The Wizards are on the edge of being eliminated. Exactly the kind of game the Bulls should win, but won’t.
Thursday vs. Clippers: Clippers are in the midst of a 5-game losing streak, but still fighting for play-in real estate. This would be a big win for the Bulls on their return to the United Center. I think they get it.
Saturday vs. Heat: After the Jimmy Butler vs. Udonis Haslem fiasco, the Heat are the one team in the top of the East that is stumbling more than the Bulls. A huge opportunity for the Bulls to build some positive momentum against a great team, which I think they will do.