After stumbling against Ja Morant, Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu must bounce back

The best thing about Dosunmu throughout his rookie season has been his ability to put bad games behind him quickly. Dosunmu had one of his worst showings of the season in the loss Saturday to Memphis. Considering the Bulls’ upcoming schedule, he’ll need to forget it.

SHARE After stumbling against Ja Morant, Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu must bounce back

The age gap between Grizzlies star Ja Morant and Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu is 5 months and 7 days, but the talent gap between them Saturday was much bigger.

Morant scored a career-high 46 points in the Grizzlies’ victory at the United Center, while Dosunmu was forced to the bench in favor of Coby White down the stretch.

It was the first really significant stumble of Dosunmu’s impressive rookie season, as the former Morgan Park and Illinois standout looked like the 38th overall pick he was for the first time in months.

And not only did Dosunmu struggle defensively, but he also went scoreless for the first time since Jan. 14 against the Warriors. He did have three assists and two steals, but — like most of the Bulls’ backcourt — he got caught up in trying to slow the pick-and-roll game Morant and big man Steven Adams had going that swallowed up defensive stance after defensive stance.

After the game, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said he thought White did a better job of fighting through the screens and trying to stay in front of Morant than Dosunmu did.

The good news for the Bulls, however, is that Dosunmu seldom puts together back-to-back bad games.

In the Bulls’ loss Feb. 7 to the Suns, Dosunmu shot 1-for-7, scored only two points and had his hands full with future Hall of Famer Chris Paul. But he bounced back in their next game against the Timberwolves, scoring 14 points and handing out 10 assists in a blowout victory.

After the aforementioned game against the Warriors, Dosunmu came back the next night against the Celtics to shoot 9-for-10, score 21 points and register 10 assists.

‘‘I think sometimes people view competition as a threat and sometimes people view competition as an opportunity to grow,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘That’s the way [Dosunmu] views it. He views it as he’s going to learn something and it’s going to make him better. He leans into those situations.’’

He definitely did in the Bulls’ victory Thursday against the Hawks, giving guard Trae Young headaches all night with his defense. Young finished 3-for-17 from the field, including 0-for-5 from three-point range.

It was the first time the two had squared off as starters, and it won’t be the last. That’s why the Bulls need Dosunmu to bounce back — and quickly.

On Monday, Dosunmu will face off against the Heat’s Kyle Lowry. On Thursday, it will be a rematch against Young. Then it will be the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday on Friday.

Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) has picked up his rehab schedule in the last week, but there is still no timetable for his return besides mid-to-late March.

That means Dosunmu likely will have to deal with the 76ers’ James Harden, the Pistons’ Cade Cunningham, the Cavaliers’ Darius Garland and the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox, who scored 33 points in their first showdown two weeks ago.

‘‘As a player, you can never really grow unless you go through really intense situations or a significant amount of adversity,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Even guarding Trae Young, as [Dosunmu is] guarding him, he learns more about that player. You kind of get tendencies and things he’s trying to do, how he sets things up, where he’s trying to get on the floor.’’

Fortunately for Dosunmu, the Bulls are done with the Grizzlies this season. That will give him plenty of time to prepare for Morant the next time they see each other.

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