Embarrassments continue to pile up for Bulls with one game left

Getting blown out by Miami, Milwaukee and Boston recently is one thing, but not showing up for the first half against Charlotte on Friday in the last home game of the regular season? Inexcusable.

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It’s hard to fathom this was the top team in the Eastern Conference at one point — not just for a game or two but for weeks.

It’s hard to remember the point in the season when veteran forward DeMar DeRozan was seen as a top-three contender for the MVP Award, with late-game heroics almost nightly.

It’s hard to process that the Bulls had one of the grimiest defenses in the NBA out of the gate last fall — disruptive and tenacious.

So much has changed, and so quickly. And Friday’s performance — a 133-117 loss to the visiting Hornets — continued to make the good memories more forgettable.

The Bulls, who are playoff-bound for the first time in five years, had one of the most embarrassing first halves in recent team history — and, yes, that includes the Jim Boylen era — trailing 79-51 at intermission. To say they looked to be sleepwalking on defense through most of the first half would be unfair to sleepwalking.

The Hornets hit their first 11 shots to start the game, led by LaMelo Ball — the younger brother of sidelined Bulls guard Lonzo Ball — who had 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the first quarter, including 3-for-3 from three-point range. The Bulls (45-36) allowed 39 points in the first quarter and 40 in the second, at one point falling behind by 31. They looked defenseless against three-pointers, in the paint and against dunks.

With the Raptors’ come-from-behind win over the Rockets, the Bulls team now have the No. 6 seed in the East. DeRoza looked exhausted from carrying the load most of the season. The defense? What defense?

Coach Billy Donovan, obviously not thrilled with the latest performance, fell on his sword. He said he went over all the defensive coverages he wanted against the Hornets during the Bulls’ morning shootaround but must not have been clear enough in relaying the information to his players.

“I don’t blame them at all,” Donovan said. “I blame myself.”

Admirable, but not accurate.

“Am I saying the whole game is on me? No, I’m not saying that at all,” Donovan continued. “This is my truth. In sitting there and watching the game, what we covered, we did not do well enough. I feel that is my responsibility. I’m always going to look at myself.”

But this was bigger than just a slip-up against the Hornets (42-39). The Bulls have now lost four straight with one game left in the regular season, after struggling against elite teams this season. Now they are simply struggling against anyone.

“We got our [butt] beat, simple as that,” DeRozan said. “They attacked us. We couldn’t guard them. They had their way. It sucks, but that’s what happened.

“We’re getting to a place where you’ve got to get over it. It’s gonna have to click. You have to understand the moment of what we’re going into. This is on us. We’re the ones that are out there, the players.”

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