In their latest loss, the Chicago Bulls stuck to the story of their season, giving up too many opportunities to a league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves team.
The 121-117 loss makes for the second-straight, after they squandered an opportunity to capitalize on Zach LaVine’s historic performance against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
Chicago’s now 22-30, four games back of the eighth-seed New York Knicks.
The play-in tournament is slowly but surely shaping up as the lone Bulls avenue to the playoffs. 20 games to go.
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Billy Donovan Sounds Off
First-year head coach Billy Donovan has managed to remain stoic during some of the rough stretches of this Chicago Bulls season. That wasn’t the case on Sunday night.
Donovan was very forward about the most blatant flaw in his team’s roster: defense. It’s been their Achilles’ heel all season, and could very well derail any potential playoff push.
When speaking with reporters postgame (via the Chicago Sun-Times) he even went as far as to call the loss to Minnesota an “exposure” of the team’s inconsistencies on that end:
Habits get exposed. To me, you’ll always shrink back to the level of your habits, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now. We don’t have the habits we need to have, but it’s not necessarily a lot of these guys’ fault. I don’t blame them at all.
Donovan made it clear (via NBC Sports) that there was little to compliment about the Bulls efforts on that end of the ball:
We have a hard time physically a lot of times controlling the ball — both the guards and the bigs. We just do. There’s no way around it. In the second half, we started trapping every pick-and-roll. It probably hurt us when (Karl-Anthony) Towns got that 3-pointer late. But it did generate a couple turnovers and got us back in the game… That’s the challenge when we get against really great foot speed or craftiness with the ball. We have to find ways to get it under control.
Chicago allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 16-of-36 from the three-point line, good for a 44 percent shooting clip. Minnesota’s currently got the 24th worst three-point shooting percentage in the entire league.
Donovan refused to pinpoint specific players who are struggling on defense, and instead, made it clear that the entire team has room to grow on that end, both individually and as a unit:
We need to be a whole lot better than we are. I felt there were times when we made some progress and strides. But the one challenge for us that we need to keep improving and trying to get better on is when there’s multiple handlers. Atlanta had it the other night. Tonight with (D’Angelo) Russell and (Anthony) Edwards and (Ricky) Rubio who can create and playmake in pick-and-roll, we’ve got to be better all the way around defensively. It’s not just the bigs. It’s not just the guards. It’s the combination of them working together.
Edwards, Rubio, and Russell combined for 15 assists and just four turnovers on Sunday.
Chicago’s inability to manage opposing guard play isn’t timely, with a matchup against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies slated for Monday night.
The second-year guard is averaging 19 points and 7.3 assists.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
The Chicago Bulls are now 22-30, the 10th seed in the East, and four games back of the eighth-seed New York Knicks.
Five Thirty Eight currently has a Chicago playoff berth at 12 percent likelihood.
That’s good for the fourth-worst mark of all teams with over one percent odds.
Tankathon.com has the Chicago Bulls remaining schedule as the ninth-most difficult in the NBA.
After their upcoming four-game stretch against Memphis (x2), Orlando, and Cleveland, 12 of their last 16 games will be against teams currently with an above .500 record.
Now or never.