Bulls Insider

Bulls continue to come up short against NBA elite


Remember those impressive November and December road sweeps of the Los Angeles and New York teams, respectively?

They’re becoming a more distant memory.

The Chicago Bulls dropped to 1-11 against teams with the top-seven records---besides theirs---in the NBA following Monday’s meek meltdown to the NBA-best Phoenix Suns.

Granted, the Bulls aren’t currently whole---and weren’t in some of those 12 games. But neither were some opponents, although the Suns played with their core in racing out to a 27-point lead.

The Bulls’ defense is ranked 26th since Alex Caruso went down with his fractured wrist on Jan. 21. And, yes, he and Lonzo Ball are so crucial to the Bulls’ defensive scheme with their ability to impact at opponents’ point of attack.

But for those thinking their return, which is weeks off, will wave some magic wand, well, Billy Donovan has some thoughts.

“They’re good at it; don’t get me wrong. But just to sit there and say, ‘OK, these guys are back. Their defense is going to be great.’ I don’t believe it. It’s gotta be a team thing all the way around,” Donovan said. “Those guys are good at (point-of-attack) defense. But I think Ayo (Dosunmu) can be really good at it. I think Troy Brown can be really good at it. Coby (White), I think our guys that are playing can be good at it. We’re not at a level we need to be at.”

Indeed, the Bulls currently are in a position where they need to win offensive shootouts. That’s how porous their defense has become. It’s dead last in the NBA over the last 15 games in terms of defensive rating.

Against those top-seven teams, the Bulls’ average margin of defeat is 14.5 points in two losses to the Heat; four points in one meeting against the Bucks; 23 points in the loss of a two-game split with the Cavaliers; 8.3 points in three defeats by the 76ers; 13 points in one meeting against the Grizzlies and an unsightly 34 points in two blowout losses to the Warriors.

“You can take a lot from those great teams of understanding what they do extremely well,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You can’t make mistakes against top teams in this league. You just can’t. You’re going to pay for it every single night.

“We have to understand that going into the game. Make teams uncomfortable. Teams try to do that same thing to us. We gotta do it to them.”

Donovan cited the need for more physicality at the point of attack and better rotations and closeouts. He praised the transition defense while also calling for heightened attention to detail because the Bulls’ current margin of error is slim with reserves in different rotational roles due to the injuries.

“We gotta have a certain urgency or competitiveness regardless of who is on the floor,” Zach LaVine said. “With those guys out, we’re not going to have the strongest defense because that’s what they do. But we still have to have the same system and competitiveness.”

LaVine then tried to interject some humor, saying the Bulls haven’t played well against the top Western Conference teams but “good thing we don’t have to play them until obviously at the end.”

Like those long-ago sweeps of the Los Angeles and New York teams, the NBA Finals with the Bulls in them are a distant memory.

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