Bulls hit with adversity and yet again kneel to it, losing to Knicks


Billy Donovan wanted adversity

Well, he’s getting it, and then some.

For a second straight game, the Bulls fought and clawed to force overtime, only to lose in heartbreaking fashion.

After the Hawks beat them Sunday, Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks came into the United Center for the first game of a two-game series and pulled away for a 128-120 victory over the Bulls.

Iron may sharpen iron, but at 11-16, the Bulls look very dull.

“I think we’re fighting and competing, but there’s detailed things that we’ve got to get better at,’’ Donovan said. “The disciplined stuff hurt us.’’

It seemingly always does.

“Just got to do a better job of paying attention to the details earlier in the game,’’ veteran guard Alex Caruso said.

“We’ve had games this year where we’ve put it together and looked really good. Problem is, some nights we’re not there for 48 minutes, and that’s just the difference in professional sports. If you’re not locked in for the full game, it’s kind of a coin flip at the end.’’

Getting outscored 11-3 in overtime is hardly a coin flip, and neither is the Bulls’ 3-11 record in clutch games this season. Last season, the Bulls were fourth in that category. But that also was a source of concern for Donovan — too many magical moments where the ball bounced their way.

His hope was some adversity this season would toughen his players and force them to develop a mentality that was more sustainable, but so far that hasn’t been the case. The Bulls have the league’s worst record in clutch games.

“I know the character of the guys and how competitive we are,’’ Caruso said. “We don’t have guys that will just fold. That’s not our MO.’’

Their MO has been digging themselves a hole in the first half.

The Bulls still have trouble explaining those early problems. They fell into that hole in familiar fashion, allowing the opposition to once again have a field day from three-point range.

The Knicks came in last in three-point percentage at 31.9%.

All they did in the first half was go 8-for-17 (47.1%) from long range, taking a 65-55 lead at the half.

The Bulls did get back into the game going into the fourth, but it looked like the Knicks would have the final say in the quarter. Julius Randle went isolation on Patrick Williams with 24.7 seconds left in the fourth, but all Randle could get out of the possession was an air ball that left one prayer for the Bulls to try to pull off with 0.7 seconds left.

Like the Hawks did to them Sunday night, the Bulls tried the alley-oop from the inbounds, with Alex Caruso throwing the ball up to Williams. But Williams was no A.J. Griffin, and the pass and attempt failed.

Then it all fell apart in the overtime.

“We were in a little bit of trouble, but we found a way to get the game into overtime,’’ Donovan said.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well. I thought we really competed. The challenge for us was we really got caught in a lot of situations of leaving our feet, which led to a lot of fouls, and then the other part of it, too, was we really got hurt on the glass.’’

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