Bulls’ defensive issues linger, but focus remains on fixing them

The Bulls scored so easily in their 130-116 victory Sunday against the Trail Blazers that it covered up the defensive miscues.

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Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, right, drives around Bulls guard Matt Thomas during the first half of Sunday’s game.

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons, right, drives around Bulls guard Matt Thomas during the first half of Sunday’s game.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Bulls at least deserve some credit for their short-term ingenuity.

They might not have found a permanent solution for their ongoing defensive woes, but they were able to locate a few shovels, toss some snow in that direction and cover it up Sunday.

That’s what a good shooting game, combined with playing a horrific defensive team such as the Trail Blazers, will do. The Bulls got back to their winning ways with a 130-116 victory at the United Center.

‘‘We’re just gonna have to be in situations where we’re going to have to provide more help for one another [defensively] . . . as much as is necessary,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘We’ve gotta do a better job helping behind pick-and-roll. We’ve gotta do a better job helping on the ball. We’ve gotta do a better job shifting to prevent penetration. There’s just a lot of things I think we’ve got to do better, and I think it starts with your physicality, where you are and how you’re playing from the three-point line and in.’’

There were moments where that physicality showed itself against the Blazers, but there was still a lot of the same old, same old.

After the Bulls allowed a below-average three-point-shooting team such as the Spurs to get comfortable from long range Friday, they offered the Blazers the same luxury early. The Blazers built a 35-29 lead in the first quarter by shooting 66.7% from the field, including 7-for-11 from three-point range.

That wasn’t exactly the response Donovan was looking for.

‘‘I think in the first quarter we had the right intentions, but the thing we did a really poor job of was our close-outs,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re stopping under the three-point line like we’re worried about getting driven. Then when they rise up to shoot and you’re going out there contesting, it’s too late.

‘‘We got better as the game went on. I get it: It’s hard to take away the three and contain the ball. But where you get caught is in no man’s land.’’

That started to change in the second quarter and continued into the second half. Not only did the Bulls get back to the disruptive style of defense they display on most nights when guards Alex Caruso (wrist surgery) and Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) are in the lineup, but they showed some pride in getting back to a more physical brand of basketball.

The Bulls scored seven points off four turnovers and held the Blazers to 47.8% shooting in the second quarter, heading into halftime looking like a team that grasped what it had to do defensively.

‘‘We just stay locked in,’’ guard Coby White said of the adjustment. ‘‘The coaches continue to be on us on that end of the floor. We want to get to another level on the defensive end, so we kind of stay locked in with the guys we have. Zach [LaVine], DeMar [DeRozan], [Nikola Vucevic], we know we can score, but those are the guys that are mainly preaching that we’ve got to get it done on the defensive end. Those guys are all-in, so we never lose sight of it.’’

Vucevic led the Bulls with 24 points, and DeRozan added 23.

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