Jim Boylen’s spirited comments during Monday’s shootaround included the Bulls head coach admitting that “it’s going to be rough for a while” while his young team learns how to play his style.
The rough patch that’s plagued the Bulls ever since they knocked off the Thunder on Friday night continued Monday with another ugly performance that ended in a smattering of boos from the few who stuck around to watch the end of a 108-89 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
They committed a season-high 27 turnovers, watched a 14-point first-half lead slip away and couldn’t match the energy level of a West Coast team finishing a four-games-in-seven-nights road trip in the Midwest. For everything they did well in the first half it was non-existent and really didn’t mean much by the end of the night.
And though Boylen’s comments after the game were mostly upbeat – a stark contrast from any of his availability on Saturday, Sunday or Monday – the reality was the Bulls are still searching for a plethora of answers on the court while still trying to figure out how to exist with their coach off it.
Boylen didn’t question his players’ toughness this time around, and he didn’t mention their physical shape. But even after Monday’s loss in which they were outscored 63-33 in the second half and had more turnovers (14) than made field goals (12) after halftime, Boylen hinted at his team needing to get better in all the phases he’s questioned in his first eight days on the job.
“We’re just having a hard time sustaining, maybe, the style we want to play for 48 minutes,” he said. “We’re having a hard time right now as a group and I gotta do a better job at this because we’re having a hard time doing the basics for 48 minutes. Some nights we play 32, some nights we play 38, 42, whatever it is. That’s what we’ve got to work on and that’s where we’ve got to grow.”
There were some silver linings, like the 55 percent they shot in the first half while holding Sacramento to 45 points and four 3-pointers on 17 tries; the Kings entered Monday behind only Golden State in 3-point field goal percentage. Bobby Portis and Kris Dunn both looked healthy in first-half stints, too, after each returning from sprained MCL stints.
But the unsustainable shooting masked the 13 turnovers they committed, and when the shots didn’t fall in the second half and the turnovers remained the end result was inevitable. A similarly built young Kings team rushed the Bulls after halftime, making 12 3-pointers, outscoring them 12-0 in fast break points and limiting the Bulls to 35 percent shooting.
“I thought their energy went up and our energy went down as the game went on,” Boylen said, “and that’s something we talked about (in the locker room) and something we’ve got to fix.”
It was hardly the performance and effort expected from a team that said all the right things at shootaround earlier in the day about how they had come together, had clear expectations of each other and took positives from Sunday’s mayhem. Instead they once again fell into a second-half lull and couldn’t get out of it.
But the bigger picture remains intact. While it was important for the Bulls to show up on Monday – they weren’t going to lose by 56 again, but competing was critical – the effect of Sunday’s practice/meeting fiasco will be seen over the long-term. It was hardly the start they wanted, but LaVine still saw on-court improvements in terms of communication that will carry over the remainder of the season.
“I think everything made us closer,” LaVine said after the game. “Good bad or ugly I think that ordeal was good for the team. I think it made us closer. Everybody spoke the truth about everything and there isn’t any more mixed feelings. I think everything was on the table. Being straight up with people is always a good thing. I think sometimes people are afraid of the truth and I think we handled that.”
Their next test to respond will come South of the border. The Bulls will face the Orlando Magic on Thursday in Mexico City as part of a three-game road trip that also makes stops in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
And after coming together in the meetings held Sunday, they’ll get an opportunity to continue such bonding – both with each other and their head coach – on the road. Perhaps getting away from Chicago and the media that’s been reporting on their internal struggles will be a blessing for a team that still has a long way to go after falling to 6-22 with another second half collapse.
“Definitely on the road we get to bond and you have to come together even more because that’s another thing. On the road there’s more adversity,” Dunn said. “We’re going to need each other, we’re going to have to buy in and we’re gonna have to hoop.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.