Billy Donovan Didn't Hold Back After the Bulls Blew Another Massive Lead

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Billy Donovan Didn’t Hold Back After the Bulls Blew Another Massive Lead

Chicago Bulls

Jan. 2, Jan. 24, Feb. 15, and March 1 all have one thing in common.

They’re all days the Bulls made you crawl into the fetal position and moan for hours?

Fine, they all have two things in common – the second of which is that each date represents a time the Chicago Bulls blew a lead of 21 points or greater. For what it’s worth, the latest occurrence did at least come tied to a slim 117-115 victory over the Detroit Pistons, but it also came with arguably the angriest postgame response from the team’s head coach.

A frustrated Billy Donovan sat in front of reporters on Wednesday night and didn’t hold back. His usual optimistic demeanor was replaced with a sense of aggravated bewilderment, as the Bulls barely squeaked by the East’s worst team:

“You see this team in the first 24 minutes of the game that is playing unbelievable beautiful basketball,” Donovan said. “Then, you see a team looking lethargic, uninspired. And it’s amazing to me, to be quite honest … As long as we’re playing to that standard or trying to for 48 minutes, it’s fine. But it happened against Washington [too].”

The Bulls have played some of their worst basketball this season when up big. Whether it be a team as competent as the Cavs or as inexperienced as the Pacers or Pistons, they have repeatedly allowed opponents to claw their way back into games. Why they haven’t yet learned from their mistakes is dumbfounding, so much so that Donovan didn’t even know the right word to describe why it keeps happening.

“I don’t really know what the word is that I would use. Relaxed, foot of the gas, or just an urgency, an edge. There is not an edge. Whatever word you want to use,” Donovan said. “It bleeds into everything. It bleeds into broken pick and roll coverage. It bleeds into lack of communication on defense. It bleeds into carelessness and turnovers. All these things just pile up and before you know you’re giving a team incredible momentum and energy to get back into a game.”   

While the Bulls deserve credit for playing as well as they do to get up big, they also deserve immense criticism for repeatedly falling into a false sense of security. Time and again we watch them take their foot off the gas, and it’s undoubtedly an indictment of the in-house leadership.

Speaking of which, as much as I agree with everything Donovan is saying, he’s supposed to provide at least some of that leadership. It might be up to the players to execute, but it’s up to him to make them sick of letting these blown leads happen. The head coach needs to hold his players accountable.

Having said that, these blown leads aren’t just a sign of mental weakness. We all know that this team has some glaring roster issues, and one is their inability to handle a more physical and aggressive style of play. The fact of the matter is that most teams play harder in the second half. Opponents are almost always going to ramp up the intensity as the game goes on, especially when they’re faced with a sizeable deficit.

The Bulls’ lack of a primary ball-handler is a big reason why they aren’t equipped to handle this extra pressure. Turnovers and sloppy possession can quickly stack up and force them into far more stagnant offensive play. For example, the Bulls go from having the 17th-ranked AST% in the first half of games to comfortably the NBA’s WORST in the second half, per NBA Stats. With no true point guard available, this group really struggles to keep the offense in motion.

Similarly problematic is the sheer lack of reliable 3-point shooting on the roster. Besides Zach LaVine, there isn’t really anyone else who can be trusted to take a high volume of shots from downtown, especially in the starting lineup. LaVine’s 7.3 shot attempts from long range per game lead the team, while Nikola Vucevic and Coby White are tied for second with 4.6 attempts per game.

The Bulls have watched their opponent either sprint back into games or stretch out leads with their 3-point shooting. And you can only combat 3s with 2s for so long.

Regardless, the point is that these blown leads aren’t a factor of one easily-fixable thing. The fact they keep happening is just further proof that the way this roster is currently constructed isn’t going to work for the long haul. I have to imagine that deep down Billy Donovan knows that, which is perhaps where some of this frustration stems from.

You can listen to Donovan’s full postgame press conference here:

Author: Elias Schuster

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