This was a statement game.
A powerful message was sent: We are done here.
After Ayo Dosunmu hit a jumper to put the Bulls up 71-61 (that’s a 10-point lead) with 5:52 in the third quarter, the Bulls put on a display much like their inexcusable loss to Indiana on Tuesday and many more before that.
They lost to the Charlotte Hornets. By 16.
111-95 was the final.
The Bulls are now 22-26. They have fallen out of the play-in range and into the 11th seed in the East.
The way they went out was even worse. The Bulls absolutely quit in this game.
Despite an 0-of-18 stretch from behind the three-point line, the Hornets still managed to dice up the Bulls defense with unlimited paint penetration and easy looks at the rim. LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier got wherever they wanted and fed lob after lob to Mason Plumlee and Mark Williams.
Meanwhile, the Bulls your-turn, my-turn offense between DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine continues to be fruitless. The offense and defense completely disappeared in the second half for the second-straight night.
The dagger in the coffin? A Plumlee pull-up jumper with his left hand. You read that right.
The lowly Charlotte Hornets just won their 14th game of the season. They just won their sixth home game of the year.
“We come out good, looking like we have the right mentality the first half, and then second half everything goes to shit, so as leaders we’ve got to do better, I’ve got to do better,” Zach LaVine told reporters in Charlotte. “It’s not going to change until each one of us individually comes together and says, ‘Enough.’ It’s not like we’re not trying, but it’s obviously not enough.”
It’s important to avoid overreacting to one single good win or bad loss. The Bulls had an incredible stretch last season, but at this point, the evidence supporting the opposite is overwhelming.
[More: A day-by-day journal of the CHGO Bulls trip to Paris]
Any goodwill the Bulls have built up since the loss to Minnesota is gone. The Bulls may have gone 8-3 for a stretch, but they’re 3-5 in their last eight games, 6-7 in their last 13 and 22-26 on the season. Not to mention 30-41 in their last 71 games dating back to last season (excluding their 1-4 playoff exit).
“We have to do better than last year,” Arturas Karnisovas said of the team’s goal heading into the 2022-23 season. “Yearly improvement is what I’m looking for. Ultimately, winning it. That’s the goal. High expectations.”
Unfortunately, the expectation has become that the Bulls will blow leads and lose to bad teams, draw you back in with a good win against a contender, just to have another embarrassing loss to a team they should have no problem taking care of.
As far as meeting the goal from last year, to match their record from 2021-22, the Bulls would have to go 24-10 the rest of the way. They would have to make up 4.5 games and overtake five teams to get back to the sixth seed, where they finished last year.
It doesn’t seem like they’ll get back to that level, let alone exceed it, on their own. They need to make some changes. Maybe it’s time to play Dalen Terry? Maybe the Bulls need to revisit their plans for Nikola Vucevic’s upcoming free agency. Whatever it is, they need to do something.
Billy Donovan talks about confronting the team’s problems and facing adversity after every loss. Well, it’s time for the front office to do the same.
“I’m not at a point where I can say this just can’t work,” Donovan said. “There’s too much substance of good guys that want to do the right things and care. We just have to be desperate. I don’t know of any other way to say it. We can’t just line-up and play, and everything is going to work itself out, and we’re going to wait for the fourth quarter and close this thing out.”
What they have going now is not working and it hasn’t for nearly a full season.
If it’s broke, fix it.