Lifeless Bulls fall to Knicks in rematch

At least there was some fight in the overtime loss to Tom Thibodeau and New York on Wednesday. In the second half of the sequel Friday? Nothing even close to that.

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Zach LaVine

At some point this season, it will have to start meaning something for this organization — a “let’s start giving a damn’’ moment that turns the underachieving around.

It didn’t come against the Knicks in the two-game miniseries and definitely not in the Friday sequel.

In what could have been rock bottom for the 2022-23 season, the Bulls followed up their Wednesday overtime loss to Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks by looking completely lifeless in a second half that could best be described as embarrassing to all involved with the team.

Soft on the boards.

Careless with the ball.

No rhythm to an offense that was starting to become “my turn, your turn.’’

And in the aftermath of the 114-91 loss at the United Center, the Bulls not only found themselves at 11-17 in the standings, but coming up on a crossroads of sticking to “continuity’’ in hopes of it somehow turning around or the idea of finding out which pieces could be movable on the trade market.

Either way, something will have to give soon.

“Our collective spirit needs to be a whole lot better,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “You’ve got to be able to have resolve to move through the adversity of things you can’t control.’’

Donovan was then asked if this group was even capable of having resolve and if bringing back this roster was a mistake.

“I don’t personally feel that way,’’ Donovan said. “I think the character in that locker room is good. We have got to collectively have more resolve. I still feel like we can be better in those areas and have been better. Are we going to have resolve? It’s in our face right now, and we’ve got to face it.’’

So when?

“It was terrible,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “We’ve got to be better, and we know that. There’s nothing you can do except try to be better the next day.’’

Third quarters have been when the Bulls have made up deficits, not fallen into them.

But in a season in which little has been consistent with this team, of course that’s what they did against the Knicks in the rematch.

Watching a second-quarter, seven-point lead disappear by the half was one thing, but Donovan’s crew looked completely void of energy out of the locker room, starting with New York’s RJ Barrett driving to the rack for the easy layup, then hitting a three-pointer 30 seconds later.

The Knicks ended up outscoring the Bulls 29-22 in the third, but appearance was everything. All New York did was outhustle them and play like it mattered more. It was nothing special besides that. Of course, it helped that they again outrebounded the Bulls in the quarter 13-9 and scored nine points off five Bulls turnovers, but Thibodeau’s crew only shot 3-for-11 from three-point range and missed four free throws.

Surely there would have to be some pride shown in the fourth?

Not with this group.

More turnovers and more stagnant offensive sets as the Bulls were outscored 27-16 in the last quarter.

By the time the last few minutes rolled around, the UC crowd finally had something to cheer about, as Derrick Rose checked into the game to “MVP, MVP’’ chants and responded by hitting a three.

“You got to have belief in what you’re doing out here,’’ LaVine said. “I have confidence in myself and my teammates because we put the work in. If you doubt it, then you shouldn’t be here. Obviously, it’s tough times, and we’re not trying to go out and play like this. We’ve got to own it and try to play better.’’

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