After losing multiple double-digit leads throughout the game to eventually fall 127-125 in overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan put it bluntly: His young team hasn’t figured out how to win yet.
“This is a hard-working group. It’s a good group of guys. They want to win,” Donovan said. “They don’t know how to. They are learning how to.”
With a fourth consecutive loss, the Bulls dropped to 4-8 on the season. Turnovers have become a trend, with 24 against the Thunder. Guard Zach LaVine was sensational in scoring 35 points, hitting 8-of-14 from 3-point range, but he turned it over six times.
“It’s the same thing for us,” Donovan said. “Until we find a way to take care of the basketball, it’s so hard to win at this level when you’re turning the ball over at the rate we turn it over.
“A lot of it is self-induced,” Donovan said. “I thought it was all on us.”
The Bulls led by 22 in the third quarter, by 16 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the fourth and by 10 with 1:56 remaining in regulation. The Bulls went scoreless in the final two minutes, turning the ball over three times (two offensive fouls) and missing the only two shots they attempted, including a potential game-winning attempt by LaVine with 0.9 seconds left.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, before the Bulls’ loss Friday night, teams were 1-2,930 when trailing by 10 or more points in the final two minutes of regulation over the past five seasons. The only other win was by the Kings on Jan. 27, 2020.
“I think we’re all at a lot for words on how we played and how we ended the game,” a frustrated LaVine said. “We just folded. We straight up folded.”
The Bulls have shown positive signs of progression after a slow start, bouncing back to win four out of five before this losing streak. But in their past four games, they’ve allowed at least 115 points in all of them, losing all by four points or fewer.
“I think we’ve just got to learn how to win,” forward Lauri Markkanen said.
The four-game losing streak comes at the same time LaVine is on an offensive roll, becoming the first Bull to have four consecutive 30-point games while shooting 50% or better from the floor since Michael Jordan did it in five straight games in 1996.
“You gotta learn how to win a basketball game when you’re up by 20,” LaVine said.
It wasn’t enough, though, to hold off the Thunder, who were sparked by a career-high 33 points by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on impressive 13-of-19 shooting, plus 10 assists. Guard Lu Dort added 21, and he was a big part of the Bulls’ turnover issues, forcing six.
“It is really hard to win in this league if you don’t do three things: If you don’t win the free throw battle, the rebounding battle and the turnover battle, it’s really difficult,” Donovan said. “And for us, we’ve gotten destroyed in the turnover battle the whole entire year.”
The Bulls play at the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.