Fred Hoiberg is still trying to figure out the pulse of his team
Consistency, urgency and players knowing their roles weren’t topics Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg expected to be addressing with 18 games left in the regular season.
Those issues were discussed through the first half of the season and were supposed to be left there.
On Thursday, though, Hoiberg still was trying to explain his 31-33 team — and its three-game losing streak — as honestly as he could.
‘‘I hope so,’’ Hoiberg said when he was asked if he still thought the Bulls were a playoff team. ‘‘I loved how we were playing. We won five out of six games [in the previous two weeks] against really good teams. You look at the teams we beat. We beat Boston, Toronto, at Cleveland, Golden State and then a Phoenix team that I think has lost once since we played them. Now we’re on a little bit of a slide.
‘‘You’ve gotta get back to doing the things that made us successful. That’s going out there and playing together and making the right plays, competing on a nightly basis.’’
Those are things the Bulls struggled with in losses Monday against the Pistons and Wednesday against the Magic.
‘‘You talk a lot about the offensive woes that we had [this week], and there’s no question that was a huge part of [the loss to the Magic],’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘But we gave up 27 [points] on the break, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds, we turned it over 18 times, and you can’t do that and expect to win on the road. We have to do the basics better. If we do that, we’re going to give ourselves a chance each and every time we step on the floor.’’
All are valid points, but those are things the Bulls have been able to do only in spurts. They are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and face the Rockets, Celtics, Hornets, Grizzlies and Wizards in their next five games.
‘‘It’s time now,’’ point guard Jerian Grant said. ‘‘We’re trying to get into the playoffs. We’ve shown that we can beat any team in this league, so it’s all about getting in right now.’’
Asked how the Bulls got into their predicament, Grant said: ‘‘We’re just inconsistent. We’ve obviously been inconsistent all year, and we’re trying to find that consistency. Until we do that, we won’t be as good as we can.’’
The good news is that the Bulls will have guard Dwyane Wade (thigh) back from injury Friday against the Rockets after he missed the last two games. Hoiberg also has dropped forward Nikola Mirotic from the rotation, so there shouldn’t be as many defensive problems as there have been recently.
But the roster remains flawed, and it undoubtedly will fall on Wade and swingman Jimmy Butler to continue to carry the load.
‘‘The biggest thing that we have to talk about right now is you can’t look at if we get into the playoffs,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘We have to worry about today.’’
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