Thanks to guard Ayo Dosunmu playing hero, Bulls have two consecutive wins
It felt like rock bottom after an embarrassing showing Sunday in Minnesota, but after some good old-fashioned teammate confrontation in the locker room that night, the Bulls might be building something good out of it.
ATLANTA — It could have been construed as nothing more than coachspeak.
Billy Donovan trying to do damage control and distracting from some real underlying issues inside the Bulls locker room.
But the coach seldom works that way. Donovan embraces confrontation and wants his players to do the same. So in the wake of a halftime locker-room incident between players Sunday in Minnesota, when Donovan called it a “good thing’’ two days later, he meant it.
Thanks to Ayo Dosunmu, a “good thing’’ is how it was starting to feel.
With the game tied and DeMar DeRozan looking to play last-second hero Wednesday against the Hawks, it was Dosunmu who put the cape on, grabbing the offensive rebound on the DeRozan miss and putting it in at the horn for the improbable 110-108 win.
Basically, it’s what the Hawks did to the Bulls last week when AJ Griffin hit a game-winner in overtime.
“I knew once I hit DeMar [with the pass], and once he got into his shot, I was hoping he was going to make it, but I just wanted to get around the rim just in case,’’ Dosunmu said. “We lost some games like that this year, so I just wanted to be around the rim, use my instincts . . . just be there.’’
And the shot gave the Bulls (13-18) a second consecutive win.
Not bad for a team that looked to be unraveling at the start of the week, after giving up 150 points to the Timberwolves in regulation. It was in that game that the halftime blow-up occurred, with Donovan anxious to see what exactly his players would do coming out of it.
It’s an early answer in the back-to-back with Miami and Atlanta, but at least it’s an answer.
“I think you hope so,’’ Donovan said, when asked if that moment could lead to something positive. “I’m a big believer in confrontation. Communication, them trying to relay what they need from each other is a good thing. At times it can be uncomfortable for people, but it comes from a good place of they know they need each other.’’
Donovan couldn’t have asked for a better 23 minutes and 59.9 seconds from his players to start the game.
They were energized and physical on defense, and willing passers on offense. That mentality went into building an 18-point lead at one time.
But the half also ended with a bad taste, as DeRozan committed an unnecessary foul on Trae Young in the backcourt, and then compounded it by drawing a technical foul with just 0.1 left on the clock. Young made all three free throws, pulling Atlanta to within 10 going into the locker room.
Not the only downer in that first half. The other was Alex Caruso having to be helped off the court with 2:29 left in the half, and the Bulls leading 55-38. All Caruso had done to that point was register a team-high plus-19 in plus/minus.
The Bulls soon announced that Caruso would miss the rest of the game with a concussion, undoubtedly draining some energy from the visiting team. It showed.
With the third quarter running down, Atlanta had cut the deficit to just two, surviving the flurry from the Bulls, and now off the ropes with a second wind. In the fourth quarter, the lead kept changing hands.
It had all the makings of overtime until Dosunmu cut down the lane and was in the right place at the right time.
“I don’t know how he did it,’’ Zach LaVine said. “He’s a winning player. He sacrificed a lot for us. And it was a big-time win.’’