Bulls Insider

10 observations: Bulls fall to Cavaliers to enter All-Star break at 26-29

Coby White's last-second 3-pointer rims out as turnovers, late-game execution contributes to loss

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

CLEVELAND --- The Chicago Bulls entered the All-Star break with a 26-29 record following Wednesday night’s 108-105 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

"At the end of the day, the W isn’t on the board,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s an L, and a month from now no one is going to remember what happened.”

Here are 10 observations from a tough loss that had some teaching moments:

---The Cavaliers are the hottest team in the NBA, having won 18 of 20 games. The Bulls’ 17-point, first-half lead marked the first time the Cavaliers had faced a 12-point deficit or more since January 24.

---The Bulls, who lead the NBA in clutch minutes, played their sixth straight clutch game. They didn’t have a good final minute. Alex Caruso drew an away-from-the-play foul on a questionable call where it looked like Donovan Mitchell shoved off, giving the Cavaliers a free throw and possession. While Mitchell converted the free throw, Isaac Okoro missed a 3-pointer. But Coby White, who scored 32 points, committed the Bulls’ 15th turnover, throwing a pass through Nikola Vucevic’s hands. The Bulls played the foul game and White had a decent look on a deep and contested 3-pointer at the buzzer that banked out.

Two notable things about these final two possessions: White and DeMar DeRozan spent several minutes watching the sequences on a laptop in the postgame locker room, having the video coordinator rewind it and slow it down several times.

And White taking the potential tying 3-pointer instead of giving the ball to DeRozan offered a new level in White's ascension.

Both players talked about the instances with eloquence and introspection.

"Just slow down. I was sped up in the moment. I think if I slow down, I can make the right read," White said of the turnover. "I thought Vooch was going to pop to the 3. He made the right play by coming in because I had took on (Evan) Mobley. I knew he was going to be hard to finish over. So if I put the pass on the money, (Vucevic) got a layup or one of those little floaters that is automatic. My intention was right finding Vooch because he was open. I took DG (Darius Garland) and Mobley. I just gotta make that pass. I gotta slow down. I was too frantic."

As for the final shot, DeRozan, who finished with 24 points, had no issue with ceding responsibility.

"I love it. I wish it went in for him. Cob deserves those moments. He’s a big-time player, big-time shotmaker and creator," DeRozan said. "That was the shot. He asked me if he could’ve taken another dribble or pump fake. Man, I live with that shot 100 times a day."

Added White: "It means a lot that Coach trusts me, that my teammates trust me. Obviously I’m pretty pissed that I didn’t make the shot. It’s learning moments. Just looking back and reflecting on this year and past years, the steps I’ve made to be trusted in those moments is huge for me. But I’m pissed off I didn’t make the shot. I got a pretty good look at it."

---The Cavaliers had crushed the Bulls on the offensive glass in the first two victories in this season series, grabbing 28 offensive rebounds and converting them into 56 second-chance points. While the Bulls did a much better job limiting the Cavaliers to seven second-chance points, Cleveland did score 22 points off turnovers.

---Vucevic struggled through a tough night. He shot 4-for-16, including a rushed late 3-pointer, and scored just nine points. White finished with 32 points and coach Billy Donovan praised his second half against physical defense. Ayo Dosunmu sank four 3-pointers. That marked the first time in his career he had made at least four 3-pointers in three straight games.

---Unsurprisingly, Donovan started Andre Drummond alongside Vucevic. Not only do the Cavaliers start two big men in Jarrett Allen and Mobley, but offensive rebounds and second-chance points defined their two victories in the first meetings this season. Drummond and Vucevic are the only teammates in the NBA to rank in the top-15 in rebounding, which is no small feat given Drummond’s minutes and reserve role.

“I feel like the paint is going to be very clogged,” Drummond said, with a smile suggesting he was relishing that, at the morning shootaround.

---Donovan stayed with Dosunmu in the starting lineup and brought Alex Caruso, who sat last game with a left toe contusion, off the bench. Caruso entered at the 5 minute, 1 second mark of the first. Donovan said the move was to control Caruso’s minutes better. Caruso played close to 26 minutes.

---Torrey Craig finished with eight points and five rebounds and his first rotational turn produced extremely positive play in the form of eight points and five rebounds and a highlight-reel block on Mitchell---although Craig’s follow through caught Mitchell in the face on a missed call.

---Donovan received a technical foul in the third quarter and flirted with an ejection. He initially argued a no-call he felt Drummond should’ve received on a dunk attempt. And as he called timeout to talk more with official Michael Smith, Max Strus walked by and said something to Donovan, which Donovan took exception to.

"He was telling the official, 'Can you let him talk like that?' And I just said something back to him. And he said something to me. It was fine," Donovan said. "I got a lot of respect for Max. I didn't get a chance to know him too well when he was in Chicago with the G League. But I always respected his work ethic.

"Coming out of the timeout, I told him, 'Listen I shouldn't have said it to you. I'm fine saying that. It was in the heat of the moment. I felt he was trying to bait the official a little bit. And that's fine. It's all part of it."

After that timeout, Donovan kept arguing until official Josh Tiven held up his hand in the universal “stop” motion to prevent Donovan from receiving a second technical and ejection.

"I usually have a pretty good idea of when I'm pressed up against the line," Donovan said. "I deserved a technical foul."

---The chippiness continued in the fourth when Georges Niang and White exchanged words following Niang’s foul on White. The players had to be separated and both teams walked to their respective benches as officials reviewed the exchange. Officials assessed the good ol’ double technical foul.

---Pregame, Donovan said Patrick Williams, who is at the two-week mark with acute bone edema in his left foot, is likely to miss at least the first game coming out of the All-Star break at home against the Boston Celtics. Williams no longer is experiencing discomfort walking, which was the initial plan for his two-week prescription of active rest. When Williams returns to the lineup will be dependent to how he responds to his physical ramp-up, which is scheduled to begin in the first practices on the tail end of the All-Star break.

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