The Chicago Bulls have suffered so many deflating losses this season that it’s hard to determine a low point.
But a strong argument can be made for their 150-126 shellacking by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 18.
Not only did the Bulls allow 150 or more points in a regular-season game for the first time in 40 years, an airing-out session at halftime featured strong words among players before the coaching staff entered the locker room. Postgame, since-waived guard Goran Dragic delivered perhaps the quote of the season when he said, “we’re not playing for each other; it’s as simple as that.”
“Not great,” Nikola Vucevic said with a wry grin when asked for his memories of that night following Thursday’s practice at the Advocate Center.
The loss dropped the Bulls to seven games below .500. But they responded with three straight gritty road victories over the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks.
‘Even though it was a tough, embarrassing loss, there was a coming together that we got better from,” coach Billy Donovan said.
Added Vucevic: “Obviously, it was a really bad game for us. Our effort wasn’t there. We didn’t bring it, not even close enough for an NBA game. But in a way it was a good game for us because it was a wake-up call.”
Nobody has ever questioned this team’s work ethic or between-game commitment. Despite demoralizing loss after deflating loss, including De’Aaron Fox’s game-winning 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left for the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, the Bulls show up the next day prepared and professional.
The Bulls are 20-19 since that debacle in Minnesota. Like their response following that loss, the Bulls will need to rally again after Fox’s heroics.
Donovan said he won’t need to bring up the December game, other than showing film clips for instruction.
“There’s not a whole lot of things a coach needs to say with these guys. They know. They remember games and opponents. And listen, Minnesota in the game played well. We did not. And we’ll have to play much better,” Donovan said. “I think these guys will understand that that moment really made us better in some ways.”
Anthony Edwards has taken a jump this season for the Timberwolves, who are tied for seventh in the Western Conference at 35-35 and begin a three-game trip.
“He’s been playing great,” Vucevic said. “He’s a very good player---very athletic, big body, great driver, can shoot it. He plays for a lot of maturity for his age. He has become one of the main guys on that team, especially with (Karl-Anthony) Towns out.”