Bulls officially hit rock bottom as loss to Knicks displays recurring team flaws

Mar 28, 2022; New York, New York, USA: Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) dribbles the ball against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2022; New York, New York, USA: Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan (11) dribbles the ball against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /

If the losses to the Hawks, Kings and Pelicans wasn’t enough, the Bulls finally might have hit the ultimate low of the season in their disappointing performance against the New York Knicks at MSG.

The Chicago Bulls once again came out strong in the first quarter, but in what has become a routine for them, they couldn’t bring that same effort for all 48 minutes. They were out-rebounded, out-hustled, and couldn’t match the energy of the young Knicks’ role players.

Julius Randle and Evan Fournier struggled for the Knicks, but the Bulls’ bench was outmatched by the Knicks younger bench.

The Bulls’ inconsistent rotations have left Billy Donovan scratching his head constantly when it comes to substitutions. Patrick Williams playing only 13 minutes in a game where the Bulls gave up 13 offensive rebounds is its own puzzling sub-narrative.

There have been a lot of bad losses in this rough stretch for Chicago, but with only seven games remaining and the Bulls barely clinging on to avoid the play-in tournament, this loss really stings. The Bulls should know by now that the Knicks get up to play them. With Thibs now playing hungry young guys, it’s a different level of intensity since these players are fighting for a job.

There have been many opportunities to say the Bulls have hit rock bottom, but this game takes the cake because it put a spotlight on the each players’ flaws.

The biggest aspect that has been evident when watching Chicago from their hot start until now isn’t health — it’s effort. The Bulls are currently only missing Lonzo Ball. While the ever-changing lineups/units likely have a difficult time developing chemistry quickly, it doesn’t provide an explanation as to why the Bulls look great in the first quarter and come out flat the rest of the game.

The absence of Ball severely hurts the Bulls when it comes to perimeter shooting and defending, but it can’t be used as an excuse at this point. Something tells me the early-season Bulls that played hard all 48 minutes wouldn’t be as affected by Ball’s absence.

Ball’s 42% shooting from three and his phenomenal perimeter defense is something this team clearly misses, but it’s not something that cannot be addressed with their present depth.

Without Ball, Coby White is the role guy who should be the Bulls biggest threat from three. However, when he shoots 2-of-9 from the field and 0-of-5 from three, while also playing below average defense, those minutes hurt Chicago.

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are the Bulls’ two best players, but they can’t keep carrying the entire load. In a long 82-game season full of injuries and fatigue, other guys need to step up, and it’s also on LaVine And DeRozan to trust their teammates in crunch time.

Despite how good those two are, sometimes the offense gets stagnant and completely relies on hero ball to save them. As great as DeRozan was in the fourth quarter on Monday night, he missed the last shot of the game on a possession where the ball never left his hands. The Knicks then followed up with a nice play that moved the ball and led to an open dagger three from Alec Burks.

Then there’s the below-average defensive effort from both stars. They allow clear blow-bys at the worst moments. This hurts the team’s ability to rotate to open shooters, and it was the same story on Monday night.

Alex Caruso is a phenomenal defender but, as we saw last night, when he gets in foul trouble, it hurts the defense because of how valuable he is.

Nikola Vucevic is the team’s leading rebounder, but he allowed the Knicks to be physical and grab many of those 13 offensive rebounds. The Bulls also struggled to get him involved offensively.

Javonte Green doesn’t look to be aggressive when he is on the court. He only took one shot in 14 minutes. While he’s a great defender, the lack of offense hurts Chicago.

Ayo Dosunmu is still just a rookie at the end of the day, and the constant shifting from starter to bench player isn’t easy. While he might not have necessarily hit that rookie wall, we are starting to see more rookie mistakes from him. In this game, he slipped up defensively on a screen — a mistake that led to Immanuel Quickley blowing by him and getting a back-breaking late-game foul.

Overall as a team, one flaw that was extremely apparent was the jawing with the refs. Often times we saw LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic and others complain while sometimes not getting back on defense. For some reason, this has become a big problem in this bad stretch for the Bulls where they start to get rattled when calls don’t go their way. This is going to be a big thing to watch for in the playoffs when the game gets more physical and every second of play matters.

The worst of it all? The Bulls’ cracks seem to be growing. They are right around where many outside media members expected them to be — a borderline play-in team. Internally, they had higher expectations with their new roster. How the Bulls respond in the final seven games will decide a lot for the future of the team going into the playoffs and into the offseason.

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