Bulls Insider

How Bulls' two-game win streak offers blueprint


For eight quarters, the Chicago Bulls have displayed the toughness, engagement and activity level needed to play high-level basketball.

That play has led to two straight road victories following perhaps the low point of an inconsistent season filled with other candidates---allowing 150 points in regulation during a road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That game also featured strong player exchanges at halftime that the team has downplayed as part of professional sports. In fact, coach Billy Donovan liked the players’ passionate attempt to hold each other accountable.

“I’m a big believer in confrontation,” Donovan said on Wednesday in Atlanta. “I think sometimes people look at confrontation and think that’s yelling and screaming at each other. We don’t have those type of guys. They treat each other with great respect. But you have to confront stuff.

“I think in any type of family situation, no one walks in the house not saying anything to anybody. That’s the worst part, when there’s silence. Their communication, them trying to relay what they need from each other, is a good thing. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it. I think it’s healthy. At times it can be uncomfortable for people. But it all comes from a good place that they want to do it together.”

That’s how the Bulls have played since Sunday’s debacle, a performance that led to veteran guard Goran Dragic bluntly saying “we’re not playing for each other. It’s as simple as that.” They have shared the ball. They have helped defensively. They have, to use a Donovan phrase, put their bodies into plays.

It almost seemed poetic when, asked for what significance he takes from the back-to-back victories, Zach LaVine said exactly the opposite of Dragic: “We played for each other.”

That Ayo Dosunmu capped the back-to-back set of road victories with a buzzer-beating putback led to perhaps the most raucous celebration of the season.

“I know the group of guys we have here. Guys really want to win and really care for each other and want to do the right thing,” Nikola Vucevic said. “Obviously, we’re not out of it yet. But it’s a good start. We’ve always had the belief we have what it takes to be a good team.”

The Bulls have shown they can be exactly that at times. They are 6-1 against the Bucks, Celtics, Nets and Heat. They are now 3-2 when their “Big Three” of LaVine, Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan each score 20 or more points, something that happened in both victories in Miami and Atlanta.

It’s still too early, of course, to say the page has completely flipped on this season. The Bulls have played too inconsistently to this point and they’re battling more injuries, with Alex Caruso in concussion protocol and out on Friday against the Knicks in New York. Dragic said he’s hopeful to return on Friday against the New York Knicks after missing the Hawks game with left ankle soreness.

“The frustrating part when we don’t play like this is me knowing we can do it. I know we have it in us,” DeRozan said postgame in Atlanta. “When we do it, it’s like, ‘See.’ Now it’s just about being consistent with it because we gotta play like that.

“As long as you compete, you can live with the results. When you don’t compete, that makes everything feel worse, a win or a loss. When you compete, it makes the game fun.”

The postgame locker rooms in Miami and Atlanta have been fun. Loud music defined the scene in Miami. Jokes and good-natured teasing defined the scene in Atlanta.

This isn’t a team that doesn’t get along. It’s a team that is frustrated by its inconsistent play and players are trying to hold each other accountable to be better.

“As we work through things to try to get better as a team, they all want to win. The character and heart and spirit of these guys is really good. But there are times we don’t play to a standard that we need to play to,” Donovan said. “As the season has unfolded, it’s important to these guys. Can we compete like that for each other? That’s how we have to play.”

Click here to follow the Bulls Talk Podcast.

Contact Us