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It was just 42 days ago that the Bulls were tied atop the East.
It was just 42 days ago that the Chicago Bulls were a legitimate Conference Finals contender.
With their 133-117 loss to the Hornets on Friday night, the Bulls have lost four straight and 16 of their previous 21 games in those 42 days.
“One of the things that happens in adversity or different situations is you get finger pointing, you get blaming, you get disconnection, you get lack of communication,” Billy Donovan said. “We have too much lack of communication. I think guys get very introspective in thinking about what they’ve got to do, instead of figuring out what we’ve got to do to solve it.”
It’s not just the losses but the way they’re losing. These games are over in the first quarter. One mistake cascades into an 8-0 run and it’s already curtains. This game was no different. The Hornets led by as many as 37. The Bulls scored the first two points of the game, then LaMelo Ball hit three 3-pointer, the Hornets started 11-for-11 from the field and it was over.
“The more you communicate, the more you solve problems,” Donovan continued. “A lot of times in the game, you need to solve the problem in the game. It’s great to come over in a timeout when they’ve gone on an 8-0 run and we’re talking about it. They need to be talking about it in the moment.”
Communication is at the center of the Bulls problems. They aren’t calling out screens or directing defensive positioning.
“There was a play in the second half, it was like ‘hey, hey, hey!’,” Donovan said. “‘Hey, hey, hey’ is not a coverage. That’s not a coverage.”
They’re hardly calling out plays, settling instead for isolations. It’s a lot of guys on the court playing at the same time, but not playing together.
Lack of communication on the court has been a common thread among all the players over the last few weeks. Yet no one has an explanation for why that is or how to fix it.
“If I knew, we would figure it out by now,” Zach LaVine said. “We’re all trying to figure it out and once we do, I think it’ll click, but it hasn’t yet. But I have confidence we’ll find it.”
Maybe this is deeper. Maybe it’s a trust issue or a mental toughness issue or a team chemistry issue. Whatever it is, I’m not sure real-time problem solving is something the Bulls, or any team, can figure out in 10 days.
Blame the communication or the tough schedule or the injuries or the flukey bad shooting, this was a winnable game. This is not the kind of performance you would expect out of a team in their home finale. Certainly not the kind of performance you would expect out of a team headed to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Of course, teams heading to the playoffs don’t typically have problems with communication.
“It’s kinda like going through high school, you get a lot of A’s as a freshman and sophomore,” DeMar DeRozan explained. “And then junior and senior year, you got AP classes and them shits extremely hard.”
“We got a week to really lock in, to figure this thing out,” DeRozan continued. “We all gotta look in the mirror and figure out how we can be better going into the playoffs.”
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