Bulls lose again in laugher as search for ‘rhythm’ continues

With just two regular-season games left, not only does DeMar DeRozan want to play in both — as meaningless as they might be for the playoff-bound Bulls — but he hopes that he and his teammates can recapture some early-season magic.

SHARE Bulls lose again in laugher as search for ‘rhythm’ continues
The Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic collides with Grant Williams of the Celtics Wednesday night.

The Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic collides with Grant Williams of the Celtics Wednesday night.

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Even after another beatdown by an elite Eastern Conference team and with only two regular-season games left, DeMar DeRozan will have to be pried out of the starting lineup.

His mindset is there’s no such thing as a meaningless NBA game, especially for a Bulls team that continues searching for something … anything.

“I don’t need time off,’’ DeRozan said. “It takes that one game for us to be going completely in the right direction.’’

That didn’t happen Wednesday.

In what is turning into a depressing storyline for the Bulls and their fan base, Boston was the latest conference powerhouse to drag the Bulls to the woodshed, hammering them at the United Center 117-94.

It was the third consecutive loss for the Bulls (45-35), and it made them a combined 1-20 against Milwaukee, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Memphis, Phoenix and Golden State.

The only win over that group came against the Celtics, but that was on Nov. 1. As a matter of fact, the last time the Bulls beat a team that was currently sitting with a .600 winning percentage or better came on Nov. 10, when they beat Dallas.

Against the top four teams from both conferences, the Bulls dropped to 2-21.

And while the Bulls clinched a playoff spot Tuesday, heading back to the postseason for the first time since 2017, DeRozan’s attitude was there was still work to be done.

“There’s nothing like having a rhythm while playing,’’ DeRozan said. “I’m going to continue to play this thing out, and hopefully we’re going in the right direction come next week. It’s going to come. It sucks right now over the last couple of weeks, but I have the utmost confidence in the guys.’’

He might be in the minority these days.

Even Zach LaVine sounded concerned after the Boston game.

“We got to find some fight in the next few games before it becomes real time,’’ LaVine said.

It’s not just the quality of teams the Bulls have been losing to lately, but also the way they’re losing.

They haven’t been competitive against a quality team since a six-point March 4 loss to the Bucks. Since then, the 76ers beat them by 15, the Suns by 27, the Heat by 18 on Saturday, the Bucks by 21 on Tuesday, and now the latest nightmare

Of the top nine teams in the East, the Bulls are the only one with a negative point differential, which rarely translates into any sort of playoff run.

That doesn’t mean DeRozan wasn’t proud of the turnaround from last season.

“As long as the opportunity is there, it’s a chance,’’ DeRozan said.

“It would be different if we weren’t making it and we were talking about next year. For us to still have a chance and have an opportunity to pick it up and use these next couple of games to be going in the right direction at the right time, that’s what it’s all about. Anything can happen. You always kind of look at it from the positive point of view.’’

It’s hard to do after this latest throttling.

DeRozan finished with 16 points, Nikola Vucevic added 13 and LaVine was held to seven. All three sat most of the fourth quarter.

“The road this time of year for any team is never easy,’’ coach Billy Donovan said after the loss. “We need to understand exactly what we could be walking into [for the playoffs].

“For some of our guys, it’s new. There is a growth period where you have to become tougher, nastier … these moments where you’re playing against quality teams, you get to a point where you say, ‘Enough.’ We’ve got to get that.’’

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