Forget about timeouts; Bulls coach Jim Boylen has bigger concerns

Sure, it would have been nice to have timeouts at the end of the game Saturday. But until Boylen can get his players to limit the letdowns they’re having in the third quarter, timeouts won’t mean much.

SHARE Forget about timeouts; Bulls coach Jim Boylen has bigger concerns
Managing timeouts is the not Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s biggest concern.

Managing timeouts is the not Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s biggest concern.

Brandon Dill/AP

Unconventional, unapologetic, abrasive.

There are a lot of ways to describe Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s style.

But the latest criticism from the fan base is that Boylen chews through timeouts like chips on Super Bowl Sunday.

In a 111-104 loss Saturday to the Celtics, the Bulls lost their last timeout when Boylen was forced to send trainer Jeff Tanaka onto the court to attend to big man Lauri Markkanen’s sprained left ankle with 4:09 left.

Four minutes is an eternity in an NBA game, and if the Bulls had been able to make it a one-score game in the final seconds, they wouldn’t have been able to call a timeout to advance the ball into a better position.

Boylen was asked about it afterward and gave his explanation.

‘‘I’m not going to save a timeout when I’ve got a guy out there that looks like he got really hurt,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘That’s not what I’m about.’’

He then addressed his mentality about timeouts.

‘‘We practice to not have timeouts,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not in fear mode that we don’t have timeouts because we’re prepared to not have them.’’

Crazy? Maybe, but he wasn’t lying. A Bulls player told the Sun-Times via text message Sunday that the team has, in fact, practiced end-of-game situations with no timeouts in scrimmages.

There are bigger issues with the Bulls than this, though. Specifically, why does there continue to be so much slippage in the third quarter of games? The numbers show just how bad the Bulls are when coming out for the second half, with the biggest indictment being their minus-8.9 point differential in the quarter.

Against the Celtics, Boylen was using his timeouts to try to stop the bleeding that was taking place. What he should be focusing on is understanding that opponents are making halftime adjustments that the Bulls are failing to counter.

‘‘We’ve gotta be more locked in, have more sense of urgency,’’ guard Kris Dunn said when asked about the Bulls’ third-quarter stumbles. ‘‘We have to have awareness to understand that we have been poor in the third quarter.’’

Dunn pointed out he’s not frustrated with his teammates as much as he is with the situation they continually put themselves in. Asking the Bulls to climb out of a second-half hole night after night is unrealistic, especially against playoff-quality teams such as the Jazz and Celtics, the last two teams to beat the Bulls after third-quarter no-shows.

‘‘Fourth quarter, that’s when the level rises for each team,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘It’s time to buckle down and see who can execute more, who can get more stops. So in the third quarter, we can’t have those mishaps and allow teams to jump out on us where now we’re down 12 and we’re playing catch-up.

‘‘That takes a lot of energy, playing catch-up. So we’ve gotta be able to withstand and keep things close.’’

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