Sports

Chicago Bulls face a turning point ahead of a 6-game road gauntlet: ‘You need to be a desperate team’


The Chicago Bulls are facing a turning point.

That might feel melodramatic — after all, it’s only one month into the season. More than 60 games remain in the regular season, which could feel like plenty of time to turn around a 6-10 record.

But on the heels of a four-game skid entering Monday night’s game against the Boston Celtics at the United Center, the Bulls now face one of the toughest stretches of the season as they prepare for a six-game road stretch against mostly winning teams.

The Bulls are marginally better at home than on the road this season (4-5 at the United Center entering Monday, 2-5 in enemy territory). Regardless of location, the next three weeks will be a challenge with seven of nine opponents currently above .500. And one of the two outliers is the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champions who still can turn any team on its head.

The four-game skid quickly sank the Bulls into the bottom third of the Eastern Conference. If they can’t begin to produce solutions over the next three weeks, they could sink even further into an early slump that might be impossible to shake.

“There’s a sense of urgency when you lose a game,” guard Zach LaVine said. “We all have that sense of urgency, individually and collectively as a team. You need to have that. You need to be a desperate team when you go out and play and get those wins.

“The games aren’t going to stop. You’re going to have to continue to play these high-level teams. We need to get it going.”

LaVine’s benching in the final minutes of Friday’s loss to the Orlando Magic highlighted the delicate balance the Bulls must strike to hold their big three — LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević — to a higher standard necessary to start winning again.

Coach Billy Donovan made it clear the trio isn’t doing enough, particularly in the first quarter. All three are scoring at a lower rate than last season (a combined 61.7 points per game entering Monday, down from 69.9), and only DeRozan is shooting at a higher percentage as LaVine struggles to regain his athleticism after offseason knee surgery.

But Donovan said the trio’s burden of leading a turnaround in the next three weeks falls more heavily off the ball, where he has criticized their defensive effort — also particularly in the opening quarter.

“When shots get divvied up at the end of the year, my guess would be that Zach, DeMar and Vooch are going to take more shots than anybody on our team,” Donovan said. “It’s not going to necessarily be democratic offensively. Generally, those guys are going to have more shots than anybody else.

“But we can’t be any good (if) that takes away the responsibility of those guys having to run back in transition or guard in the pick-and-roll. Everybody has an equal share in that.”

It’s clear the Bulls can’t win on the shoulders of their stars alone. Donovan entered the season insisting the team’s adjusted …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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