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Bulls' continuity brings another season-ending loss in Miami

Management must get creative to reshape roster after second straight underwhelming season

NBC Universal, Inc.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

MIAMI --- Talk about continuity.

For the second straight season, an underwhelming Chicago Bulls season ended with a Play-In Tournament loss to the Miami Heat. This time, the Bulls fell 112-91.

With Jimmy Butler out, it’s unlikely the Heat will reprise their run to the NBA Finals. But at least they will be playing playoff basketball on Sunday in Boston.

For the second straight postseason, the Bulls are on the outside looking in, failing to meet management’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

The players and coaches deserve credit for overcoming a 5-14 start and season-ending injuries to Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams, plus the second straight missed season by Lonzo Ball. Their resilience and league-leading performance in clutch games brought them to Friday night.

But while management filled the roster with resilient players, its real work begins now. Executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas, general manager Marc Eversley and their staff need to get creative to address the glaring ceiling this roster based on continuity has hit its head against far too often.

DeMar DeRozan is an unrestricted free agent who has said publicly many times that he wants to return. Williams is a restricted free agent. LaVine will land in trade rumors until he’s dealt.

Karnisovas consistently points to August 2021 as an example of how he can get creative. That’s when he and his staff dramatically reshaped the roster with salary-cap machinations, sign-and-trades for DeRozan and Ball and Alex Caruso’s addition in free agency.

The Bulls need to get creative again. This team is stuck in mediocrity.

For all the positivity stemming from breakout seasons for Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, an expected repeat on first team All-Defense for Caruso and DeRozan’s strong chance to win Clutch Player of the Year, this roster needs change. It needs more size, more shooting and more urgency.

The Bulls proved this season they can beat the best teams and lose to the worst. Consistency was not their friend, sometimes in the same game.

Take, for example, Friday’s start: After blasting out of the gate with good ball movement and forceful play to make four of their first five shots, they started settling for jumpers and less movement and missed 14 of their next 16 shots.

Then, the Heat endured a scoreless stretch of 4 minutes, 38 seconds and the Bulls didn’t take advantage of it as much as they should’ve, failing to drop their deficit to single digits.

The third quarter proved worse. Not only did the Bulls lapse into their season-long habit of losing their composure with both DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic arguing with officials over multiple trips up and down the court, a small-ball lineup featuring Javonte Green at center backfired.

Then, the real ugliness started: The Bulls committed turnovers on four straight possessions, including a five-point trip for the Heat when Delon Wright sank a 3-pointer after he stole Caruso’s inbounds pass following two made free throws by Kevin Love.

The Bulls tied their season-low in points and shot 38 percent.

That’s the small picture stuff. The big picture is offseason signings Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig played a combined six minutes until mop-up time, with Carter not getting off the bench until the game was decided. And White and DeRozan looked like the heavy load they shouldered all season caught up to them.

Obviously, some of that load resulted from the injuries. But some of it also came about because of a roster that needs an overhaul.

Even without Butler, the Heat played more aggressively and more physically than the Bulls, who now have all offseason to stew about how a season banking on continuity ended the same way as last season.

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