CHICAGO (670 The Score) – After the Bulls’ latest debacle, one marred by one head-scratching defensive breakdown after another in a 133-117 loss to the Hornets on Friday that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated, coach Billy Donovan began by pointing the finger directly at himself.
“Some of the struggles that took place in the first quarter were things that we really tried to cover today at shootaround, and to be quite honest with you, I didn’t do a good enough job of creating maybe enough clarity for them on those situations,” Donovan said. “And I thought we had some blown coverages. We got hurt on some slip-outs. It was stuff we knew that they were going to do. We kind of talked about it, worked on it a little bit, but I obviously didn’t do a good enough job creating enough clarity there for them. That’s on me.”
There was certainly plenty of blame to go around. The Bulls allowed the Hornets to make their first 11 field-goal attempts, had verbal defensive miscommunications that could land on a blooper reel ("'Hey, hey, hey' is not a coverage," Donovan lamented), trailed by as many as 37 and had a first-half showing that was perhaps the most dispiriting of the Donovan era, which his in its second year in Chicago.
The Hornets’ 79 points in the first half were the most the Bulls had allowed in any half of a game this season. Charlotte shot 60.5%, including 66.7% in the first half as it took a 28-point lead into the break. At times, the Bulls’ defense was so disorganized and slow that the Hornets easily navigated to the rim and then literally chose between attempting dunks and layups or kicking the ball out for wide-open 3-point looks.
Donovan believed the problems started with him as the Bulls lost their fourth straight game.
“Am I saying the whole game is on me?” Donovan said. “No, I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is – and I’ve talked to you guys a lot about you have to be truthful in terms of what you’re seeing – and what I’m seeing is this is my truth.
“Sitting over there and watching the game, some of the broken floor situations on coverages, what we covered, we did not do well enough. I feel like that was my responsibility. I just feel that. Now, were there other breakdowns? Yeah, but I’m going to always look at myself first. That’s the first thing I’m going to do before I ever look at a player.”
As for the players’ perspective, star forward DeMar DeRozan responded by absolving Donovan of much of the blame, saying, “It’s on us, we were the ones that were out there.” Star guard Zach LaVine then echoed those comments while venting his frustration as the Bulls dropped to 7-15 since the All-Star break.
“We’ve seen the same story,” LaVine said. “I always try to be very uplifting and try to see the bright side, but I’m tired of talking. We say a lot of words, and we say the right things, but we got to figure it out. And we’re not doing that, plain and simple. Everybody, top to bottom, coaching staff, everybody’s involved. We just got to do a better job, because it’s right around the corner. We can’t let this happen. It’s embarrassing.”
The Bulls dropped to 45-36 with the loss and are now locked in as the East’s No. 3 seed. They won’t know their first-round opponent until Sunday. They could still play the Bucks, Celtics or 76ers.
“Everybody has the right intentions, but we’re not executing it the right way,” LaVine said. “There’s definitely, obviously some disconnection. But we’re here now. Nobody is going to help us. Nobody is going to feel bad for us. We’re going to have to buckle down and figure it out.
“Everybody is upset, man. We’ve been getting our ass kicked.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.