Bulls lose and DeMar DeRozan says it’s on him and Zach LaVine to fix it

Last year, before LaVine dealt with a handful of injuries and illness, DeRozan and LaVine were a deadly duo on many nights. This season, however, the two don’t seem to have the same mojo. DeRozan feels it’s a missing “rhythm,” and until that’s fixed there’s going to continue to be inconsistent nights.

SHARE Bulls lose and DeMar DeRozan says it’s on him and Zach LaVine to fix it
Zach LaVine

CLEVELAND — DeMar DeRozan knows it’s not a two-man game.

But as far as the veteran forward was concerned, the fortunes of the Bulls the rest of the season is a two-man responsibility.

After another embarrassing night in a 97-89 loss Saturday to the lethargic-looking Cavaliers, DeRozan said that he and Zach LaVine need to find a rhythm — especially late in games — and get back to what they were doing more often in their first season together.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of understanding possessions in a game,’’ DeRozan said, when discussing the issues the two have had together on the court far too often this year. “I wouldn’t put it on teams having us figured out. I’d say 85% of it is picking and choosing on understanding the possession and not feeling so rushed into trying to hit a home run every possession.

“That’s on us and we’ve got to do a better job managing that, understanding that. And a lot of times it comes down to not even scoring. It’s not about us coming down and feeling we’ve got to be Superman and score 20 points in the fourth quarter. It’s about us playing the game the right way, understanding what needs to be done, how we can play off one another, how we can use each other to help everyone else on the team to be in better position to make plays for us as well. It’s on us more than anything.’’

The game against Cleveland should have been a good first Step 1.

The schedule gave the Bulls (26-30) a great assist, considering the Cavs had to play Friday night in New Orleans, and because it was a nationally televised game, they were in a doubleheader and didn’t tip-off until 10 p.m. Eastern time. That meant they didn’t get back into town until almost 5 a.m., while the Bulls took Friday off in Cleveland, fully rested.

It played out like that early on.

Despite some serious turnover issues, the Bulls took a 49-40 lead into halftime. A dismal 16-for-44 (36.4%) from the field and 5-for-18 (27.8%) from three-point range was the effort from the home team. What continued to give Cleveland life? More Bulls turnovers.

Thanks to seven more in the third, the comfortable-looking lead was just five going into the final quarter.

The comeback was complete with 9:54 left in the fourth, when Donovan Mitchell hit a three-pointer to put Cleveland up 76-74. It only continued to slip from there, as the Bulls were outscored 20-4 to start that final period.

As for LaVine and DeRozan closing the game out? Didn’t happen. LaVine went just 2-for-3 in the fourth, while DeRozan was 0-for-3.

“We show it throughout the game, but the fourth quarter is always a new game,’’ DeRozan said. “There’s going to be nights we can’t control the shots we make or miss, but we control everything else we do. That’s making the next right read, trusting our teammates, play off of them as well. But we’ve got to find that rhythm first.’’

Bigger concern is they might not have enough time to do that. On a night they were outscored 28-15 in the fourth and committed a season-high 22 turnovers, it was tough to see light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s been [56 games] and we still haven’t figured it out,’’ veteran center Nikola Vucevic said. “It’s obviously a concern. If we keep dropping games like that we might drop out of the play-in, too, so there’s a lot at stake.’’

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