MIAMI – For all the positive vibes that have been generated from this season, nights like Monday can be a moment of pause when it comes to the Bulls.
The Heat, a team that’s appeared in an NBA Finals in the last two years and is in a title-competition window, was in control from start to finish in a 112-99 victory. They led by nine at halftime and pushed the lead to 24 by the end of three quarters.
Miami showed off their depth with 49 points off the bench as the Bulls simply weren’t able to keep up in a second-straight defeat.
Such a result could be looked at in two ways: Either the Bulls aren’t ready to be at the Heat’s level at the moment or the still injury-depleted Chicago team will have more to offer when healthy.
Billy Donovan wasn’t thinking that much into it. When asked about his team’s struggles against better competition in the NBA, he wasn’t going to simply shake it off as a health thing for the Bulls.
“I just never believed in the excuse component from the standpoint that the guys are professional players, they’ve got pride,” said Donovan. “I think anytime you have good players out, it hurts any team, certainly. Miami’s got two or three players sitting out, and they’ve gotten hurt with injuries this year. Everybody’s kinda gone through it.”
The Bulls are doing so at the moment, with their last two games keeping up with a recent trend. Losses to Memphis and Miami now take the Bulls to 0-11 against the top three seeds from each conference. Such a statistic can be a cause for concern as this team looks to return to relevancy in the Eastern Conference after four-straight playoff-less seasons.
Donovan isn’t panicking by any means over the record, but he’s mindful that facing these kinds of teams with added expectations is a first for a number of his players. Learning from difficult night against the Grizzlies then Heat is part of the process of getting the team ready for the playoffs in a few months.
“We have to get battle-tested in some of these games, and we just don’t have a lot of guys that gone into this kind of experience, right, and I think it’s really, really good for us. I look at it that way,” said Donovan. “So when you say it’s concerning; it’s not as concerning as much as, you know what, it’s shining a light on what really goes into this.”
It’s one that will fall on the Bulls again as the spotlight, and the competition, turn up for the Bulls before the postseason.