Bulls fall to Nets’ ‘Big Three,’ as season just about wraps up
The loss to the Nets was a reminder of the talent gap the Bulls face with some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls’ season of ‘‘what-ifs’’ ends Sunday, when they host the Bucks in their finale.
A reminder that they’re not even close to contention came Saturday.
With the ‘‘Big Three’’ of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving reunited on the court for the first time in three months, the Nets coasted past the Bulls 105-91 in New York.
The three didn’t play lights-out ball, but with the Bulls coming off the disappointment of officially being eliminated from the play-in tournament Friday and coach Billy Donovan sitting out guards Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky and forward Daniel Theis, the Nets didn’t need the trio to look great. It was more about getting them reps with each other as they prepare for a postseason run.
Irving led the Nets with 22 points, Durant added 12 points and nine rebounds and Harden had five points and seven assists.
The Bulls (30-41), meanwhile, were dealing with the sting of unfulfilled goals and trying to determine what lies ahead. They have two All-Stars in LaVine and center Nikola Vucevic who still need time to play together, then a bunch of question marks surrounding them.
‘‘Definitely disappointing,’’ Vucevic said of the Bulls falling short of their playoff goals. ‘‘We really felt like we had a chance to get there and to get in the play-in and play for something further. But there were a lot of things that happened along the way that didn’t help us, either. I mean, it’s hard to judge it now. There were definitely things we could have done better.’’
There’s no doubting that.
A lack of defense, physicality and urgency was all too common this season. The Bulls have to own up to that and can’t simply blame a lack of cohesiveness on it.
Where they get a bit of a pass, however, is that because of the condensed schedule in the second half of the season, practice time was in short supply. That might not be a big deal for some teams, but the Bulls added five new players at the trade deadline in late March and had some moments where they looked like a pickup team thrown together at the local YMCA.
‘‘When you make a trade midseason, a lot of things change, and sometimes it takes more time [to jell],’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘Unfortunately, we didn’t have that. It is disappointing we didn’t achieve our goal, so we have to be realistic and say we failed at that. But the only thing we can do is move forward and hopefully use that as motivation going into next year.’’
One positive was rookie forward Patrick Williams taking a long-overdue aggressive approach offensively. He scored 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including three three-pointers.
Donovan had been talking to Williams about being too unselfish, and the latest film session between the two seemed to unlock something.
‘‘It definitely helps, just kind of seeing how it is from a film point of view,’’ Williams said. ‘‘It kind of feels or looks different to me out there on the court than it does on film. But when you have a bird’s-eye view, it kind of makes it easier to read. They obviously trust me and have confidence in me, so [it’s just a matter of] not letting them down and having confidence in myself.’’