Coach Billy Donovan placed the burden of a recent string of Chicago Bulls losses on the shoulders of their best players: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.
The veteran starters are often the saving grace for the Bulls, producing over half of the team’s points per game. But as the Bulls continue to dig themselves into early deficits, Donovan demanded more from his All-Star trio ahead of Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic at the United Center.
“I’ve got a lot of respect on a lot of levels for Vooch and DeMar and Zach, but we’re never going to be as good as we can be as a team until those three guys really drive the opening part of the game,” Donovan said. “I don’t look at it as pressure on them. It’s just what we’ve got to do as a basketball team. That’s the expectation. That’s the standard. … I’m constantly asking more from them and I feel like they can handle that.”
The Bulls’ 108-107 loss Friday provided a brutal illustration of how first-half deficits can haunt a team.
Despite Donovan’s attempt to galvanize his starters, the Bulls dug themselves into a 19-point deficit as LaVine went 1-for-10 from the field in the first half and finished 1 of 14 for four points. Vučević had 14 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
The Bulls were just as sluggish and disjointed on defense, allowing Wendell Carter Jr. to score 15 first-half points. The Bulls’ 2018 first-round pick who went to the Magic in the trade for Vučević finished with 21 points and eight rebounds.
It didn’t matter that DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points in the second half to cap a 41-point performance. It didn’t matter that Javonte Green thundered off the bench after sitting for the entire first half to hammer a transition dunk for a four-point Bulls lead with 26.5 seconds remaining. The Bulls had dug themselves into too big of a hole to create any comfort with a late-game surge.
After Vučević missed two free-throw attempts, Jalen Suggs hit a haymaker 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds remaining, and the Magic extended the Bulls’ losing streak to four.
“A lot of the game will come down to Suggs’ 3 or Vooch’s missed free throws, but in the NBA it’s very hard to play a half of basketball and expect to win,” Donovan said after the loss. “We let luck come into play. We left ourselves open …read more
Source:: The Mercury News