With 10 regular-season games left, Bulls have to reverse ugly trends

Bad on the road and dismal against the NBA’s elite, the Bulls have some glaring problems with the playoffs right around the corner. Can the issues be fixed? Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan hope so.

SHARE With 10 regular-season games left, Bulls have to reverse ugly trends
The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan drives past the Milwaukee Bucks’ Wesley Matthews during the second half of Tuesday’s game.

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan drives past the Milwaukee Bucks’ Wesley Matthews during the second half of Tuesday’s game.

Morry Gash/AP

Tough lessons aren’t being learned.

That’s the most concerning trend for the Bulls with only 10 regular-season games left.

The downward spiral continued Tuesday night in Milwaukee. The defending-champion Bucks welcomed their neighbors from Chicago, then promptly took them to the woodshed for a 28-point beatdown.

The loss left the Bulls with an 0-16 record against the top three teams in each conference, and they’re 3-19 against teams with a winning percentage of .600 or better. Only one of those three victories came on the road — in Boston on Nov. 1.

The Bulls haven’t beaten a .600-or-better team since Nov. 10, when they knocked off the Mavericks. Since then, they’re 0-17.

Preparing for the NBA’s elite has been talked about before games, after games, between games and during games, but nothing seems to work.

“If we haven’t got it, we’re getting it now,’’ forward DeMar DeRozan said when asked about being better prepared to play at a high level against top-tier competition. “Understanding what it’s going to be like, and it will be even tougher in the playoffs.

‘‘We’re going through it right now, what you call battle wounds, battle scars. We’re kind of taking them all on the chin. It’s going to show us what we’re made of.’’

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bulls were the talk of the East, sitting atop the conference and looking like a tough out in the playoffs. Now they’re the No. 5 seed, on the outside looking in on a first-round series with home-court advantage.

That advantage means a lot more to the Bulls than some other teams. Their 26-10 record at the United Center was the second-best home mark behind the Heat in the East going into Wednesday’s games. On the other hand, their road record is 16-20, sixth-worst in the East.

Of the 10 games left, five will be on the road.

“It really is on the road for us,’’ guard Alex Caruso said of one glaring problem. “I feel like at home we play fine. We have to have a different mindset going on the road, especially when shots aren’t going in on a back-to-back playing against the reigning champs.

‘‘You’ve got to know what you’re in for. You’ve got to be ready for things not to go your way and respond — whether it’s settling for the easy route on offense or not competing enough on defense in little instances like box-outs and one-on-ones, forcing catches out farther, getting covers right. You want to win on the road; you can’t mess many of them up. We’re messing too many of them up.’’

Caruso says it’s not about talent, rotations or injuries. It’s understanding the details that go into winning NBA games.

“We’ve got plenty of talent on our team,’’ Caruso said. “It’s not a talent issue. It’s about executing. At any level — middle school, high school, college, pro — winning basketball is winning basketball. It doesn’t change, no matter what level you’re at. If you want to win an NBA championship, you want to compete in the playoffs, you want to play in March Madness, get to the state finals in high school, you have to execute and do your [expletive] really well. We’re not doing our stuff good enough right now.’’

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