It’s all in the details for Bulls if they have any playoff hopes
That has been the message from coach Billy Donovan, and it has been reiterated by NBA champion Tristan Thompson.
MINNEAPOLIS — Take the emotions out of it.
Take the record against elite teams, the quality of play since the All-Star break, all the outside noise of what this Bulls team can’t do, and “flush that [stuff] down the toilet.’’
That was the message from veteran Tristan Thompson with the regular season in the rearview mirror.
“You have to,’’ Thompson said Sunday. “You don’t flush all that [stuff] down the toilet now . . . next week is the final exam. Nothing else that’s happened to this point matters. If you let it, you’re in trouble.’’
Besides suddenly being well-versed in plumbing issues, Thompson also has an NBA title on his résumé. He’s not alone, either. Alex Caruso collected a ring with the Lakers, and coach Billy Donovan heard “One Shining Moment’’ a few times when he was coaching at the University of Florida.
There’s championship pedigree in the Bulls’ locker room.
But there’s also reality.
As much as the veterans with playoff experience have been trying to will this group out of this rut the last few months, words and stories about what happened in 2016 only carry so much weight.
That brings scars.
The one that stands out the most is the 1-20 record against Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Memphis, Phoenix and Golden State.
The only victory came against the Celtics, but that was on Nov. 1. The last time the Bulls beat a team that was sitting at .600 or better was on Nov. 10, when they beat Dallas.
Against the top four teams from both conferences, the Bulls were an embarrassing 2-21.
The other reason there’s so much doom and gloom is that the elite teams have not only beaten the Bulls, but in most cases, especially in the last month, they’ve routed them.
A team’s best basketball is supposed to be played in April, leading into the playoffs. The Bulls have worked backward, playing their best basketball around the holidays, then falling on their faces.
So how does Thompson expect this team to block out all the negativity from the outside, forget the 23 games against the NBA’s elite and become a threat in the postseason?
It’s in the details.
“The preparation for the playoffs is more detail-oriented than anything else,’’ Thompson said. “It’s not so much physical. Just pay attention to the details. The details are what’s going to be the difference between allowing a team to go on an 8-0 run against us or they score two baskets and you get a big stop. That kind of stuff comes down to the details of knowing the guys you are guarding, the plays you’re running, and how you can blow all that up and make it tough for them.’’
Coach Billy Donovan has been preaching that message for weeks and is hoping it sinks in at some point in the next five days.
“One of the things I’ve been talking about since coming out of the All-Star break is the details of the concentration and the focus,’’ Donovan said. “Whether that’s not giving up second-chance opportunities, whether it’s having an understanding that the other team is in the bonus and not giving silly fouls to get them to the free-throw line, not communicating in transition. . . . Sometimes in the regular season, you can get by with that, but when you’re playing the level of teams you’re playing [in the postseason], there’s no slippage there.
‘‘That’s the thing I’ve been trying to hammer home with them.’’
Time to find out if it resonates.