Closing time for Bulls coach Billy Donovan will remain ever-changing
It would be great if Donovan had a solid five to lean on in the final minutes of close games, especially with how important the next few weeks will be for his team’s playoff hopes, but that isn’t the situation.
Ideally, coach Billy Donovan would love a closing five to end games with.
This season, however, has been less than ideal.
With injuries, a trade deadline that brought in five new players and only 14 regular-season games left, it’s a throw-whatever-you-have-to-out-there mentality.
Don’t expect that to change with Zach LaVine sidelined and with a frontcourt made up of very versatile pieces.
“When you look at the last time we played Cleveland [on Saturday], we closed with Lauri [Markkanen],’’ Donovan said. “The Boston game [on Monday], we closed with [Daniel] Theis. Some of it is matchups; some of it is just going off my gut. I know I’m not always going to be perfect or right all the time, but I just try to read the game and make those decisions.’’
It’s those frontcourt decisions that have been the toughest for Donovan, and he will continue juggling based on how guys are playing, as well as the opponent. He did say that he looks at the analytics of different groups before games, but in the heat of the final minutes, his gut and the eye test carry more weight.
“We don’t necessarily have a closing group because there are guys on our team that provide different things,’’ Donovan said. “Lauri can really, really stretch the floor. Daniel gives us some physicality, a presence at the basket, rebounding. Thad [Young] has always been very unique; he’s closed games quite a bit for us.’’
Besides missing LaVine, the Bulls also were without Troy Brown Jr. after he twisted his ankle in the second half against the Celtics and didn’t return.
The good news was Donovan didn’t see it as a long-term injury, saying Brown was “doubtful’’ for the game Thursday against the Hornets, then would be re-evaluated for the road trip.
Brown, who was acquired in the three-team trade with the Wizards and Celtics at the deadline, has been a valuable reserve for Donovan, especially defensively, and was averaging 19 minutes in his last 10 games.
Bickerstaff misses game
Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff missed the game against the Bulls because of personal reasons.