Bulls coach Billy Donovan not ducking criticism

The short-handed Bulls are running out of games to get back into play-in contention, but Donovan isn’t looking for excuses after a loss to the Hawks.

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Unlike former Bulls coach Jim Boylen, Billy Donovan doesn’t shy away from criticism or cover it up with catchphrases.

That’s not Donovan’s style, and it never really has been.

Another disappointing loss — 108-97 in Atlanta — wasn’t going to change that.

“Coming out of every game, I always do [some self-assessment],’’ Donovan said. “Win or lose a game, the first thing I try to do is look at myself — where I could have been better and maybe done a better job. And then obviously watching the film, and you try to make corrections and do those kinds of things.’’

But even if Donovan is able to do that in the next eight games, the Bulls (26-38) are simply running out of schedule.

They entered the night in must-win mode, trailing the Wizards by three games for the last play-in berth in the Eastern Conference, and in the first half, the Bulls fought like a team with their backs against the wall.

Thad Young, who was starting for Nikola Vucevic (right adductor), scored a team-high 18 points and had seven rebounds, and Lauri Markkanen looked to have some life off the bench, grabbing 11 rebounds. And then there was rookie Patrick Williams, who snapped out of his monthlong lull by scoring 15 points in the first half.

The Bulls had a 63-54 lead, and it was all going right.

And then it wasn’t.

The Bulls are no strangers to collapses, and you can add Saturday’s second half to the best-of collection.

Or worst-of.

The Hawks (35-30) went on a 17-2 run to overtake the Bulls and never looked back.

By the time the third quarter ended, the Bulls were held to 12 points and were in an all-too-familiar hole.

That recurring storyline has many explanations, but Donovan knows he has to fix the problem.

“I’m always going to look at what we’re doing game-to-game, how we need to play, how we need to get better from game-to-game, what I could have done better from game-to-game, and then at the end of the year, you look at the totality of the season and the areas myself and our group of coaches have got to be better at,’’ Donovan said.

That’s definitely a different mentality than was displayed by Boylen and the former front-office regime. Accountability is a word they liked to use, but it was meaningless in the end.

Not for Donovan. He has won at a certain level in college and with the Thunder, so he actually understands accountability. And in a season full of real excuses for NBA coaches, Donovan was taking them out of play.

“We’re all dealing with the same thing, right?’’ Donovan said. “So the landscape is totally even. . . . For me, I’m always going to try to evaluate and look at ways I can help the group get better, I can be better. One of the most important things to me, just for me and my life, forget about coaching, I think there’s always opportunities to grow, there’s always opportunities to get better, there’s always opportunities to learn, and that’s always important for me — how to get better and how to learn and how to grow.’’

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