The Chicago Bulls’ struggles this season linger after two consecutive losses to the Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks. Chicago dropped both games due to critical mistakes late in games, like giving up a game-winning circus layup, off an inbound pass, to AJ Griffin with .5 seconds on the clock.
The downplay continued at home Wednesday night against the Knicks when Jalen Brunson made Alex Caruso hit the floor and knock down the dagger that sealed the Knicks their fifth straight win.
The efforts defensively down the stretch may seem like the glaring weakness of the Bulls, but it isn’t just that part. Instead, the problems are at the start of their matchups, where Caruso believes the team isn’t putting a significant emphasis on making the right play.
“We have to do a better job paying attention to details earlier in the game,” said Caruso after their loss to the Knicks, per Sports Illustrated. “Some nights, we’re not there for 48 minutes, and then it’s a coin flip at the end.”
Caruso’s reasoning is based on the Bulls’ struggles to score points in the first two quarters. Chicago averages 56.1 points in the first half of games, which is tied for the seventh worst in the League. It doesn’t end there as they give up the second most three-pointers made to their opponents in the first half (7.4) and the third highest field goal percentage to their opponent (49.2).
“We just don’t have the margin for error,” Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said after the loss Wednesday night. “We’ve got to be really disciplined in a lot of specific areas.”
Even their star players were slumped through the 24 minutes against the Knicks. Had it not been for his six free throws made, DeMar DeRozan would have ended up with two points off 16.7 percent shooting from the field (1-6). Although Zach LaVine opened the bout against the Hawks with nine points (4-6 from the field), he struggled to take care of the ball ending up with five first-half turnovers.
Though the tandem of DeRozan and LaVine pick up the slack in the second half of games, winning recipes don’t come off playing from behind. Caruso demands the group starts focusing on the little but large keys to victories, like communicating or finding the better shot.
Hence they don’t find that formula; the ship will continue to sink for a team that was once thought of as ‘championship-caliber’ last season.
“Sometimes it’s been ball-screen coverage or weakside coverage,” Caruso said. “I think it goes to show how hard it is to win in pro sports. Obviously, it’s something we’ve got to get better at.”