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“You just get to a point where it’s enough.”
Billy Donovan had some very real words following the last and final blowout against a top East team. Falling 117-94 to the Celtics on Wednesday night, the Bulls finished the season 1-14 against the top four teams in the conference.
This one was an exclamation point.
“There’s got to be precision, concentration, focus,” Donovan said. “This intense focus. And we’ve gotta get that. I don’t feel like we have that. And we’ve gotta get that. There’s this elite, laser-focus of moment-by-moment playing what is going on now.”
The focus and precision aren’t there and it shows. The Celtics ran circles around the Bulls all night, getting open look after open look. The Bulls defense, particularly at the point of attack, isn’t good enough. Lonzo Ball ain’t walking through that door.
The problem isn’t just Wednesday night. The Bulls have been the league’s 27th offense with a net rating of -7.3 since the All-Star Break. That’s Jim Boylen Bulls territory over the course of a season.
Donovan framed it as an opportunity to figure themselves out and regain their identity before the Playoffs.
“There is a growth period that you have to become tougher, nastier, you just become harder and understand what it’s about,” Donovan said.
It is perhaps better to take their lumps now. Imagine if Game 1 of the playoffs was the first time DeMar DeRozan was aggressively trapped. It took the Bulls weeks to figure out how to beat those schemes.
“There’s a determination or fight or competitiveness that you have to have this time of year, because you are dealing on margins,” Donovan continued. “You’re fighting for margins. Want to know why we have these huge losses? Because Milwaukee and Boston understand the margins and they’re fighting like crazy for them. And we’ve gotten dominated on the margins. That’s why we’ve lost by 20.”
The problem is, it feels a ways away from out-executing on the margins. Fighting on the margins assumes that there is at least a competition going on out there. That has not been the case. The Bulls are not a good team right now. Sure, they need to beat teams on the margins when they have the opportunity, but they’re a step or two away from getting to that point of competition.
“We’re not as bad as we’ve played,” Donovan said. “We’re not. But we’re probably not as good as when we’re on an eight- or nine-game winning streak. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
When you’re winning, you have a false sense or false reality of who you are. And when you’re losing, you’ve got a false sense of reality of who you are.”
It’s almost unbelievable how far they’ve fallen over the last quarter of the season. At this point, I have no idea who the Bulls are.
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