The Chicago Bulls are heading into tonight’s game with the Dallas Mavericks with a four-game losing streak. They have lost those four games by a total of 11 points.
Their record could just as easily be 8-4 as it is 4-8. Billy Donovan has them playing much better offense, scoring 9.3% more points a game. Unfortunately, on the other end they are allowing 10.6% more points. These last few losses highlight two areas that need immediate attention.
Going to Zach LaVine in crunch time:
In each game Zach had the ball with under two minutes in a one possession game. He either shot too soon into the shot clock, turned the ball over, or simply missed a good luck. No one knows this more than Zach himself.
After the last loss to OKC, LaVine, who put up 35 points 7 rebounds and 6 assists, acknowledged he has to cut down on his turnovers and make better decisions with the basketball. He knows six turnovers is unacceptable even if you put up great stats in other areas.
He also knows that he cannot be considered a number one option on a playoff team if he continues to perform irresponsibly down the stretch of close games. That is where greatness is defined. If Zach wants to be great, he has to make that jump this season.
Billy Donovan broke down the last play and clearly feels the entire team needs to learn how to win. In his words “they don’t know how to win”.
Still thinking about this potential game-winning Bulls play two days later.
Here’s a breakdown of how Patrick Williams was robbed of a chance to play hero. Audio of Billy Donovan explaining what he wanted.
(h/t: @DarnellMayberry on the question to Donovan) pic.twitter.com/zU4joCeq8y
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 17, 2021
He even decided this morning to make them watch the entire last game’s final 4:40 of regulation, since it is in those moments that they tend not to execute and pay attention to detail.
Billy Donovan said instead of showing the Bulls film clips today, he made them watch the entire final 4:40 of regulation (assume OT, too? didn’t follow up on that) in an attempt to get them to understand what goes into learning how to win/attention to detail/late-game execution.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 16, 2021
Over the off-season, there was a turnover in management. We also expect there to be a roster turnover at some point, as the evaluation of the team inherited from the Gar Forman era continues. But there was hope that turnovers, of the type we see in game, would cease to be the reason the Bulls keep losing.
While LaVine is one of the guiltiest players in the league when it comes to handing the ball to the other team, now averaging 4.3 a game, he has not been the only one to blame. Last game, even Thad Young, a veteran with 14 years’ experience, had three turnovers in 13:25 of playing time!
Last year, the team finished 27th in the league in committing turnovers. So far this season they are 30th with an 18.6% increase over the first 12 games.
The season started with a question of whether Coby White could take over the point guard position enabling Zach and Coby to be on the floor together. At times, the experiment looks super promising. In the Clipper game, Coby had 13 assists and between them they scored 52 points. As a team they had 30 assists on 47 made field goals, leading to 127 points.
But it did not translate into a win. White and LaVine both had five of the teams 22 turnovers.
Against OKC they committed 24 more, including a stretch in the third quarter where a 22-point advantage disappeared with seven turnovers in ten possessions.
This season they have a horrendous turnover percentage of 29%. Clearly the loss of Tomas Satoransky and Ryan Arcidiacono has played a part. They have not had a true point guard over these last four losses and the need to upgrade at that position has been highlighted.
Against a Dallas Team that ranks 4th in the league when it comes to turning the ball over, the Bulls will have to be incredibly careful not to have another game like the last two. Players will quickly learn, if you cannot protect the ball, the Bulls will not win and when the team loses, there is no job protection either. Protect the ball, protect your job.