A CURE FOR COLLAPSING SIMPLY CAN’T WAIT
Double-digit blown leads have haunted the Bulls all season. But correcting the problem isn’t as easy as it might seem. “I don’t know what the right word would be to describe it other than ‘consistency’ and staying true to what’s been good for us,’’ coach Billy Donovan said Friday when asked about the Bulls’ inability to put teams away. “We’ve got to put the work in to fight for that — to fight for the rhythm offensively, to fight for creating good shots.”
Wednesday’s 117-115 victory in Detroit was the latest example of that fight coming sporadically, as a 21-point lead in the first half disintegrated into a nail-biter late. The Bulls have lost seven games this season in which they were up by 15 points or more.
Donovan said he again spoke with players as a group and individually after the Pistons game, hoping to get more clarity on their habit of letting off the gas. With just 18 games left in the regular season and a play-in spot within reach, something has to sink in.
“Sometimes we get to a place where maybe it’s comfort: ‘Hey, we’re up 20 — it’s OK, we’re all right,’ ” Donovan said. “No, this is how you’ve got to be able to come out in the third quarter and take a 16-point lead, and not to say that it will [increase] to 30, but make [your opponent] call the first timeout in the third quarter. Go on a 6-0 run and extend the lead from 15 to 21.
“There’s a relaxation. Then, all of a sudden, teams get energized. The physicality goes way up, we’re back on our heels and we’re no longer the aggressor. We have to fight for that.
What’s the solution? We know what the problem is. Having those discussions and talking about it is at least a good starting point, but we have to be able to do it.”
It’s not the first time Donovan has cited “physicality’’ when asked about the Bulls’ flaws. The front office obviously had been counting on internal growth, considering it brought back most of last season’s roster for this season. Do the Bulls need to look outside the organization this offseason for players with the right mentality?
“It’s hard for me to say that now because I’ve seen them do it,” Donovan said. “But what happens is, we’ve got to respond back. All these teams have a level of pride, and they’re going to fight back. We’ve got to be able to meet force with force.”
Bulls guard Alex Caruso was named the NBA Cares Community Assist Award winner for January, a recognition of his efforts to address food insecurity, provide essential items for those in need and create memorable experiences for youth in his community.
“It’s special to win the Community Assist Award because I’ve always been a person that said if I ever had a chance to give back, I was going to do it,” Caruso said. “We have a lot of privilege and a lot of responsibility to hold ourselves to a high standard and help people that are in need.
“That’s just the way I was raised, and I think that’s something really cool that I’m able to do now.” ✶