The Bulls’ defense is still combustible.
Jim Boylen doesn’t seem to have that problem with his job security.
For the second time in the last week, head coach Fred Hoiberg praised the work that Boylen, an associate coach, has been putting in trying to make the Bulls a solid unit on defense — or at least a serviceable one, as undermanned as they’ve been through the early part of the season.
“We’re asking a lot of our guys, especially young players that have been playing a lot of minutes [like] Wendell [Carter] and Chandler [Hutchison],” Hoiberg said. “It’s putting them in positions with different coverages, and you know we’re not going out there with one coverage like a lot of teams do, just based on where we are right now with injuries and lack of size on certain nights. We’re doing different things as far as switching or blitzing or trying to go under on certain guys. You go back and watch film, and you try and grow with the things you’re doing wrong.”
There was more growing to do after Friday night’s 107-105 loss to the Pacers, as the Bulls (2-7) again couldn’t avoid going the wrong direction.
Case in point: They played almost to perfection defensively in the first quarter, holding the Pacers to 22 points while putting up 37. But the Pacers came back in the second quarter with 38 points to wipe out the lead.
Later, in crunch time, after the Bulls’ Antonio Blakeney made a four-point play to tie the game with 30 seconds left, the Pacers’ Darren Collison was left wide open in the corner on a slow rotation off a double team. His shot-fake sent Ryan Arcidiacono flying past him, and he hit an easy mid-range jumper with 18.5 seconds left.
The Bulls still had chances to tie or even win, as Zach LaVine missed a tough 14-foot baseline jumper and Justin Holiday missed an open three off the rebound before Blakeney’s prayer shot was blocked at the horn.
Just like that, a second consecutive valiant effort was just another loss.
Blakeney, who finished with a team-high 22 points, believes he and his teammates are close to turning the corner.
“We just have to go out and finish games, just go out and play,” he said. “We feel like we can play with anybody.”
And Blakeney, who continued to provide instant offense off the bench, feels like he can shoot with anyone.
“I’m a confident player, whether I’m missing or making,” he said.
Blakeney and other players thought there was a foul on his attempted game-winner.
“That’s why I fell and tried to throw it up,” Blakeney said. “[Myles Turner] got a clean block, but I definitely got tripped up.”
So has the Bulls’ defense. The team entered Friday ranked 25th in the NBA in points allowed (118.4 per game). LaVine and Jabari Parker have both questioned strategy and adjustments on that side of the ball.
“We do spend a lot of time on defense,” Hoiberg said. “We spend more time on defense in practice than we do on offense, and, again, the film sessions. You try and put a system in that your players can execute and, again, get better.”