Real talk from Bulls coach Billy Donovan after a really embarrassing loss
Facing a Timberwolves team that sported the worst record in the league, the Bulls suffered one of their worst losses of the season. There were plenty of reasons why, starting with the usual suspects.
Billy Donovan is well-versed in coach-speak. He can drive in that lane if need be, using such phrases as “be the best version of ourselves’’ or “still think there’s room for us to grow.’’
But what his players and the front office have truly liked about Donovan is he knows when it’s time to be real in what he’s saying.
“Obviously, you’re always going to look at results, and I totally understand that,’’ Donovan said. “That’s why they keep score.’’
On Sunday, it would’ve been better for the Bulls if they didn’t.
In what could’ve been the low point of the season, the Bulls (22-30) fell to the worst team in the league, losing on the road to the Timberwolves 121-117.
Someone, anyone explain.
“I would say the biggest thing is communication,’’ guard Troy Brown Jr. said. “I definitely think we’re capable of [improving it].
“It’s one of those [losses] where we can’t hold anyone but ourselves accountable. You can’t blame anyone else.’’
The Bulls were down by 13 in the first half and seemed poised for a bounce-back in the second half. The comeback did not come quickly, but it came. After outscoring the T-wolves 32-25 in the third quarter, it was still a slow grind for the Bulls.
Daniel Theis actually closed the deficit to a point with 7:40 left, splitting two free throws, but the lead quickly shot up to six after five straight points from Karl-Anthony Towns.
The back-and-forth continued until Nikola Vucevic closed the deficit to three with a tip-in at the 3:47 mark.
But it was the usual culprits for the Bulls: breakdowns on defense, costly turnovers and an inability to stay away from following the opposition.
“Habits get exposed,’’ Donovan said. “To me, you’ll always shrink back to the level of your habits, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now. We don’t have the habits we need to have, but it’s not necessarily a lot of these guys’ fault. I don’t blame them at all. When you’ve got a new team, I think even terminology for Daniel, for [Vucevic] and even for Troy when they’re out there . . . I’m expecting them in basically a week-to-10-day period to know everything that we’re doing, and that’s probably unrealistic.’’
Still, there was a chance late after Coby White cut the deficit back to three with 57 seconds left, but Towns again had an answer, making a huge three-pointer.
Zach LaVine tried to play hero, making a layup with 38.7 seconds left and then another layup with 11.3 seconds left and drawing the foul. He missed the free throw, however, keeping the deficit at two.
Towns did what LaVine couldn’t, making two free throws with 9.3 seconds left, and after a LaVine three-point attempt with 4.9 seconds left, the embarrassment of the season was in the books.
The Bulls went 8-for-13 from the free-throw line, and the Timberwolves (14-40) went 25-for-25.
“The fouling really hurt us,’’ Donovan said. “We’ve got a lot of work [defensively] ahead of us, I’ll tell you that. There’s times we made progress and strides, but the challenge for us is when there’s multiple ballhandlers.
“We have a hard time physically a lot of times controlling the ball. Both the guards and the bigs. We just do. There’s no way around it.’’