Bulls continue dangerous trend of slow starts with no end in sight
Identifying the issue has been easy.
The players know it, the coaching staff knows it. Really anyone with a pulse that’s watched a Bulls game this season was very aware of the problem.
There’s the rub.
Digging a big first-half hole only to have to claw and scratch their way out of the deficit might be good reality television like the 21-point comeback against Miami on Saturday, but it’s not a sustainable way to play at the NBA level if winning is the goal.
Yet, there the Bulls were again on Monday, lifeless at the tip-off in falling behind 10 in the first two minutes and 30 seconds of the game, but this time unable to march their way back late, losing 118-100.
“The feeling we all have when we look up (at the scoreboard) and you see that, it’s definitely frustrating, embarrassing,’’ veteran DeMar DeRozan said of the bad habit that won’t go away. “It’s on us. We just got to stop it. We’ve just got to take it out of our mind that we’ve put ourselves in that situation so many times and just go out and play.’’
Because in DeRozan’s estimation that’s exactly what it is – mental.
Despite coach Billy Donovan again showing film before the Heat game on when it looks right compared to when they’re playing wrong, it’s still a roster that can’t get out of its own way in the first half.
“There’s gotta be more thrust and more force (at the start of the game), and that’s how we’ve been able to score in second halves,’’ Donovan said. “Some of it is offensively and getting stops to run, but when you’re – I don’t want to say we’re having bad possessions – but when you’re missing shots like that in the first quarter, the first half you’re in transition all the time defensively, and that’s a tough way to live.’’
A style of play on full display in the second game of a two-game homestand against Jimmy Butler and the Heat.
Sure, the Bulls (5-10) made the occasional run, cutting the Miami lead to two several times, but there were very few real answers, especially in defending the long ball and sharp-shooter Duncan Robinson. Even Donovan admitted there were several blown defensive assignments on Robinson, leading to his 22 points on 6-of-9 from three-point range.
While Miami (9-5) shot 48.6% from three-point range, the Bulls went 11-of-37 (29.7%).
Coby White led the Bulls with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but every Bulls starter was in the minus for plus/minus, including Zach LaVine’s team-high minus-24.
Windy City visit
Donovan made the trip out to Hoffman Estates to watch rookie Julian Phillips play for the organization’s G-League team, and liked what he saw from the former Tennessee forward.
Phillips scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the win, while shooting 3-of-6 from three-point range.
“I think he’s going to be a good player,’’ Donovan said of Phillips. “I’m excited with the growth he’s made. I do think he needs these opportunities to play. I think his shooting will only get better, his skills will only get better.’’
The Bulls spent the last week hosting both Florida teams for four home games, but they’re about to get another dose of “Heat Culture” sooner than later.
In mid-December, the Bulls will play Butler & Co. two more times, traveling to Miami for the Thursday and Saturday tilt.
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Author: Joe Cowley