CLEVELAND --- The Chicago Bulls concluded an 0-3 trip with a come-from-ahead, 97-89 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
They committed a season-high 23 turnovers and got outscored 28-15 in the fourth quarter. That continued a troubling trend on the trip in which they were outscored 97-50 in the final period.
“It’s like, ‘Here we go again.’ It seems like everything just shifts,” DeMar DeRozan said. “It’s on us to understand that, muster up the will to play hard. We have to understand teams are going to pick it up and play hard and be aggressive. We have to execute. We have to understand it’s a brand-new game every time we go into a fourth quarter.”
Coach Billy Donovan said the demeanor and discussion in late-game timeout huddles is strong. But he agreed the “here-we-go-again” mindset also could be plaguing the Bulls.
“Probably. I’m sure that could be going through their minds. But we gotta fight through that stuff,” Donovan said. “We just have too many self-inflicted mistakes. Whether it’s three offensive rebounds in a row or maybe we foul a guy or we come down on a 4-on-2 fast break and we can’t score and turn the ball over with some ill-advised passes. That stuff just mounts up against good teams.”
Perhaps the most damning element of the loss is that the Cavaliers were finishing a tough back-to-back set of games in which they won a 9 p.m. Central tipoff in New Orleans on Friday night. Yet, the Cavaliers closed with more aggression, poise and execution.
“We had so many possessions where we just didn’t make good decisions,” Donovan said.
Like the one where the Bulls committed a shot-clock violation----following a timeout. Or the ones where DeRozan and Zach LaVine, who are not only stars but veterans, combined for nine turnovers.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” DeRozan said. “It sucks to lose in the fashion we’re losing.”
The Bulls dropped to 10th place in the Eastern Conference with the loss, just a half-game ahead of the Toronto Raptors. And while Donovan answered a question about his concern for the team folding down the stretch by saying “that would be counter to their character,” the same mistakes keep repeating.
The Bulls finished 5-for-21 from 3-point range and are 23-for-104 over their last four games. After Thursday’s loss to Brooklyn in New York, Donovan said it’s “very hard” to win in today’s NBA with such little 3-point production.
The Bulls’ offensive rating has dropped to 24th in the NBA. And that’s with the fifth-best field-goal percentage in the NBA. That combination speaks to a team that doesn’t make 3-pointers, doesn’t generate a lot of foul shots or get easy baskets on putbacks enough.
It’s a mess.
DeRozan sat at his locker for several minutes following the latest disappointment, staring into the distance. Asked if he had ever been on a team that showed so much promise at times and so much futility at others, DeRozan didn’t hesitate.
“I mean last year, the second half of the season,” he said.
Here we go again, indeed.