Billy Donovan embarrasses himself in Bulls OT loss against Hawks

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Entering Sunday night’s game against the Hawks in Atlanta, the Chicago Bulls had all the momentum on their side coming off two consecutive wins. With the Hawks having two of their top three players sidelined due to ankle sprain injuries, the Bulls had a golden opportunity to secure a big win against an Eastern Conference rival.

If you stuck with it and watched last night’s overtime antics, however, you’d know a win would not come to fruition. Despite having the opportunity to win at the end of regulation on a free throw from Derrick Jones Jr. and going up 122-121 with 0.5 seconds remaining at the end of overtime, the Bulls seemed determined to will themselves to a loss last night.

But don’t be mistaken, it wasn’t for a lack of talent or a poor performance from one of Chicago’s star players that steered the team toward this devastating loss. No, the man responsible for this would be none other than the Bulls’ own head coach, Billy Donovan.

I have to give credit where credit is due, Atlanta’s rookie AJ Griffin pulled off a spectacular play to close out the game. This was his second game-winning shot in just 23 career games, as he similarly broke the hearts of Raptors fans earlier this season.

But as much as I can appreciate a good play, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that it shouldn’t have been possible in the first place, if not for the absolutely clueless defensive scheme Donovan employed on the final possession.

Billy Donovan’s poor coaching decisions have cost the Chicago Bulls yet another crucial game.

For starters, there’s absolutely no reason for anyone to be defending the inbounds passer with 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock — certainly not Nikola Vucevic, at that. If the 7-foot Vooch was in the paint where he should have been, it would have been nearly impossible for Griffin to get that shot off in the first place. In fact, was trusting the 6-foot-5 Derrick Jones Jr. as the only rim protector on a play that was almost certain to be a lob attempt a wise decision?

Instead, the Bulls have four of their five defenders lined up and defending the three-point line despite the fact Atlanta has no time to get a quality shot up from deep in the first place. Leaving a man on Trae Young is understandable, but there’s no explanation as to why the paint wouldn’t have been packed tight.

Instead, Atlanta has Young of all people run an extremely basic off-ball screen while Griffin cuts to the basket for the lay-in. This is a high school-level basketball play, it’s not like we’re asking a lot of Donovan here.

Despite the loss, DeMar DeRozan joins an extremely prestigious club including Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Artis Gilmore as the only players to post a stat line equal to or better than the 34 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists he had on Sunday.

If not for DeMar’s sustained excellence, it’s scary to think just how incompetent this team would look out there on the court. This is a huge reason why the national media has been quick to dismiss Chicago as a legitimate contender. As good as DeRozan is, his lengthy postseason track record proves he’s going to need help to make a playoff push with the Bulls.

Help that Donovan appears utterly incapable of giving. This is certainly not the first time Donovan has cost the Bulls an easily-winnable game this season alone. While it’s true that most NBA head coaches are relatively “average” with only a few truly exceptional coaches capable of making an impact on a nightly basis, it’s odd that these supposed “average” coaches continually out-coach Billy in clutch situations.

As long as Donovan is continually rewarded for his ineptitude and being an active detriment to this team, it’s only going to become more and more difficult to take the Chicago Bulls seriously as a competitive franchise.

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