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Late in games, Bulls have serious problem that needs fixing in a hurry

The last two games have highlighted the core group’s flaws. The Bulls blew a 23-point lead Wednesday against the Spurs, then followed that up Friday in Denver by blowing a 14-point lead with eight minutes left.

The Bulls’ problems are obvious.

Coach Billy Donovan has to find the solutions.

That’s where it gets complicated.

The last two games have highlighted the core group’s flaws. The Bulls blew a 23-point lead Wednesday against the Spurs, then followed that up Friday in Denver by blowing a 14-point lead with eight minutes left.

Donovan was as emotional as he has been during and after a loss. The “self-fulfilling prophecy’’ — as Donovan puts it — of losing was prevalent during the first half of the season, and it’s still rearing its ugly head.

So what’s the fix? Donovan says it’s a mindset that has to change from top to bottom.

“This is the challenge for this team,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘The hurdle of getting over that. We have to come together and take that on as a team. And I don’t want to say it’s in their head, not in their head. This is the team’s challenge, to take another step. We can blame it on a lot of things — youth, inexperience, other stuff. I don’t buy it. We’ve got to be able to do it.

“We as coaches have to help them, and we as coaches have to try to continue to instill the things they’ve got to do to win. So I’m not singling them out; I’m throwing myself in there with them. We all need to do a better job when those moments come.

‘‘Seven minutes, up double digits, OK, what are the things that are going to put you in a position to give up a lead? Fouling, running over screens, turning the ball over, losing the ball, stepping out of bounds, passing into illegal screens. . . . You just have to know, ‘I can’t do those things.’ ’’

The Bulls pulled off all of those no-no’s in the loss to the Nuggets. They seemed to be checking off the boxes one by one.

That’s why they woke up in Detroit on Saturday morning with an 18-22 record, tied for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with the Pacers.

And it’s not like life is about to get easier, either. The Pistons should be very beatable Sunday, but then the Bulls have to face the Jazz on Monday and the Cavaliers on Wednesday at home. Oh, and the players also will have to deal with the anxiety of the trade deadline Thursday.

After that, the Bulls have a West Coast trip in which they play the Spurs, Warriors, Suns and Jazz before coming home to face the Nets, then going back on the road against the Pacers and Hawks.

They have to take all that on with a fragile mentality and a penchant for folding in pressure situations against playoff-caliber teams.

Veteran forward Thad Young has a right to be concerned.

“I’ve been on several different teams where we’ve had stretches like this or we’ve had young players where we make a lot of mistakes at the end of games,’’ Young said. “We just stayed the course, and we ended up getting ourselves in a position to either fight for a playoff spot or be in the playoffs.

“With this situation here, it’s like in the fourth quarter we start to go into self-destruct mode. We have to figure out how to get out of self-destruct mode and make sure that we’re taking care of the basketball, making sure that we’re getting the right guys shots.’’

With this group, however, that’s easier said than done.