Bulls keep dropping games to NBA’s elite, this time in Miami
With the 112-99 loss to the Heat, the Bulls dropped to 1-11 against teams with a .600 winning percentage or higher. Coach Billy Donovan was not only squashing excuses on Monday, but hoping his players were learning some tough lessons.
MIAMI — It’s all in the details from here on out.
At least center Nikola Vucevic and the rest of his teammates hope it is. If not, their season of promise and excitement will turn into a fiery crash of disappointment in the playoffs.
In getting beaten up 112-99 by the Heat on Monday, the Bulls watched their record against teams with a .600 winning percentage or better drop to 1-11.
That’s no longer a small sample size; it’s a full-blown trend.
“Mainly in the little details,’’ Vucevic said of the latest bruised eye. “We’re just not there yet in the execution. Offensively, defensively, the execution, the communication, doing the little things that we go over in meetings and shootarounds.
“Those are the little things that end up costing you.’’
The Bulls fell to 0-3 against Miami and are two games behind the Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.
And while it has been easy for the Bulls’ fan base to fall back on the premise that a lot will change once the team gets Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball and Patrick Williams back, coach Billy Donovan offered a little reality check.
“I’ve never believed in the excuse component from the standpoint that these guys are all professional players; they’ve got pride, right?’’ Donovan said. “Anytime you’ve got good players out, it hurts any team. Certainly [Miami] has two really good players sitting out in [Victor] Oladipo and [Markieff] Morris, and they’ve gotten hurt with injuries this year like everybody has gone through it.
“I think the biggest thing for me is we have to get battle-tested in some of these games, and we just don’t have a lot of guys that have gone into this kind of experience. I think it’s really good for us, and I look at it that way.’’
Credit Donovan for staying positive because there was little worth salvaging for the Bulls.
DeMar DeRozan watched his streak of scoring 30 or more end at 10, finishing with 18 points on a poor shooting night.
Zach LaVine had only 14 points through the third quarter before making some meaningless baskets in the fourth to make his night look better on paper.
But what if these losses to the NBA’s elite have the opposite effect? What if they don’t harden the Bulls (39-23)?
“You never escape competition,’’ Donovan said. “If you’re an All-Star, not an All-Star, when the ball gets thrown up at halfcourt, all that stuff is out the window.
‘‘If it does get in our head, then we can’t become the team we want to become. That’s just not going to happen.’’
It wasn’t going to happen Monday, and that was obvious right from the first quarter. The Bulls had to climb out of a double-digit hole and went 1-for-8 from three-point range.
The third quarter was even more alarming. The Heat (41-21) looked exceedingly comfortable offensively, going 13-for-22 from the field with nine assists.
That was a wrap.
Now it’s about picking up the pieces, and DeRozan thinks they will.
“You need to be battle-tested,’’ DeRozan said. “A lot of the teams we’ve been facing, they’ve been through it.
“I’ve got the utmost confidence in the guys — in myself and the guys.’’