Owning Last Night's Kick-in-the-Butt (And Other Bulls Bullets)

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Owning Last Night’s Kick-in-the-Butt (And Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Last night’s second half was a heavy dash of ugly mixed with some embarrassing seasoned in sloppy and topped with concerning.

Bake it all together, and the Chicago Bulls have a piping hot piece of humble pie.

Look, I’d rather Chicago take their first bite sooner than later. As I briefly touched on in Wednesday night’s Enhanced Box Score, we shouldn’t look past the fact that this is a regular-season game in mid-January. As far as blowout losses on national television go, there arguably isn’t a better time to have one, as the Bulls are now left with plenty of time to course-correct.

•   I kind of look at these three games the Bulls played against the Brooklyn Nets as a mini-playoff series. And the fact the Bulls grabbed a 2-1 lead remains plenty positive. Yes, I understand the Nets didn’t have Kyrie Irving in one of the contests, but that’s technically how it would be in any game in Brooklyn come playoff time. The Bulls also didn’t have arguably two of their best three defenders (Alex Caruso and Javonte Green) for last night’s battle, which is noteworthy. Most importantly, however, a playoff series that contains two top teams usually contains a swapping of dominant wins. The Bulls stole one back in November with a 23-point victory, and the Nets bounced back last night with a 26-point victory. It’s kinda like when …

– The Bucks won 125-91 in Game 2 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals … before the Hawks won 110-88 in Game 4
– The Celtics won 121-108 in Game 6 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals … before the Heat won 125-113 in Game 7
– The Bucks won 125-103 in Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals … before the Raptors won 120-102 in Game 4
– The Celtics won 108-83 in Game 1 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals … before the Cavs won 116-86 in Game 3

•   Need I go on? All I’m saying is that … well … sh*t happens. What the Bulls need to do now is do what every good team in the playoffs does: Learn from the mistakes and use this as motivation. And, fortunately, that is exactly the mentality we saw this team take after the game:

“Own it. Understand we got our ass kicked tonight,” DeRozan told reporters. “It’s how we bounce back from that. This is a team we beat twice, we knew they were going to come in here and try to get their get back, and they did what they were supposed to do. It’s about how we respond to this. Let it sink in. Let it suck. Let it hurt.”

•   DeRozan’s right, and so is his head coach who preached the exact same sentiment only a few minutes before: “I don’t think you throw it out, I think you own it,” Billy Donovan said. Considering this is a game against a fellow east juggernaut who the Bulls could very well see come playoff time, there is simply no way to flush it. Smart superstar teams will make the Bulls pay for the same mistakes if Donovan and Co. don’t sit down and evaluate what went wrong. I expect them to do just that.

•   One of the main issues for Chicago in last night’s blowout was described well by Zach LaVine: “I just feel like they were the aggressor. We were responding to everything they were doing instead of trying to dictate to make them do something else.” Unlike in the first two matchups with this Nets squad, the Bulls failed to establish their identity from the jump. Instead, we watched as this Nets team used their savvy veteran talent to grab control of the pace of play in the 1st quarter. The team shot 12 free throws in that opening frame while shooting 57.1 percent thanks to some strong halfcourt ball movement. Chicago may have been able to ramp up the intensity in the second quarter, but the Nets punched them back down a peg when the brutal 3rd quarter arrived.  

•   The Bulls simply fouled and turned the ball over too much to grab the kind of momentum they desired. For a team at its best in transition, this sloppy start-stop game got them all out of sync. The 17 turnovers tied their third-highest total of the year, and the 28 free throws for Brooklyn were the 5th-most by an opponent this season. These were all things Donovan touched on in – what I would consider – his best postgame presser of the season. The head coach demonstrated exactly why he was picked by this front office as the man to lead this roster reinvention, as he blended praise for his team’s ability to get to this point with an emphasis on why they need to play disciplined basketball.

•   Look, the Bulls defense needs to play better than they have with Alex Caruso and Javonte Green off the floor. But I also think not accepting some kind of drop-off disrespects exactly how much those two provide this team. Caruso has been one of the best defenders in the league this season. Full stop. He was the NBA’s steals leader before hitting the injury report, making a legitimate case for All-NBA consideration. Losing that level of ball pressure and on-court IQ can make a significant difference, especially when we also remember he is one of the few experienced winners on this roster. So while I agree we can’t put all the Bulls’ defensive shortcomings on the absence of Caruso (and Green, to an extent), I do think it’s a necessary point to mention after performances like last night.

•   ICYMI: News dropped last night that Damian Lillard will undergo surgery on his abdomen. According to Yahoo Sports Chris Haynes, that surgery happened this morning and Lillard will be re-evaluated in 5-6 weeks instead of 6-8 weeks. Still, this is a brutal blow for the Blazers, and it could highly impact the short-term value of the 2022 first-rounder the Bulls acquired this offseason. More on that here.

•   The competition in the East has started to make moves …

•   What is going on with … the Blackhawks?

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.