Defensive slumps prove the undoing of the Bulls for a second time this season

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 26: T.J. Warren #1 of the Indiana Pacers drives past Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 26, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Just two games into a 72-game season and the Bulls already have a major negative trend that’s plagued the group.

Billy Donovan knows it, mentioning it specifically in his postgame news conference on Saturday night.

It came after the Bulls lost their second game of the year 125-106 against the Pacers at the United Center, one in which they led after 12 minutes. But in the second and third quarters, Indiana made major runs in which the Bulls couldn’t respond to in any way, shape, or form.

Just like their opening night loss to the Hawks, Indiana turned the game into a rout before the fourth quarter even began, slamming this Bulls team to 0-2 on the year.

“We have a couple of turnovers and we don’t stop it. That’s this team’s, so to speak, cross to bear,” said Donovan of the big runs that have sent the Bulls to a pair of early losses. “They don’t handle it. They don’t at all.”

The first of these came after Lauri Markkanen’s (16 points) dunk with 8:53 to go in the second quarter that put the Bulls up by six points. After that, the Pacers went on a tear, scoring the next 21 points over the next 5:08 to put the Bulls down by 15 points.

It got even worse to start the second half after the home team was able to trim the lead to ten at the break. Indiana’s 18-0 run essentially put the game away with nearly 20 minutes to go, with the Bulls never being able to regroup after the long stretches.

After watching Atlanta do the same on Wednesday, Donovan knows the first area he’ll have to focus on with his group, though he’ll have less than 24 hours to prepare for the team’s third game of the year against the Warriors.

They’ll visit Sunday night to face a Bulls team that, for right now, struggles mightily when things get a little out of hand on the defensive end.

“I think they internalize their mistakes, they internalize what’s going on, and I’ve said this before, they have to do it together,” said Donovan. “They have to fight together, they have to do it together. We’re probably on most nights not going to be the most athletic or the most talented or the most experienced, but we can be a team we have control over that can have a lot more fight in ourselves there.”

Because if they don’t, it’s going to be a long season, and an experienced coach like Donovan knows that.

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