Bulls believe bad performance against Denver was an anomaly

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Denver Nuggets' Jeff Green (32) goes up to shoot against Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Chicago.

    Denver Nuggets' Jeff Green (32) goes up to shoot against Chicago Bulls' Zach LaVine (8) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 11/15/2022 7:49 PM

The Bulls rank seventh in the NBA in defensive rating, a sign they're moving in the right direction.

Sunday's blowout loss to Denver showed the opposite, however. The Bulls' defense was carved to pieces by Nikola Jokic and friends in a game that was never close.

 

So which is the more accurate barometer, the stat page at nba.com or the eye test?

"I've got confidence in us," Alex Caruso said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. "A one-off game, I feel like, and I'm looking forward to getting back to it tomorrow."

The Bulls traveled to New Orleans for a return match with the Pelicans, who won last Wednesday at the United Center. When New Orleans played Memphis on Tuesday, Zion Williamson was a late scratch with a right foot contusion.

The Bulls have had a tough early schedule, but even with some rest and lineup continuity, they've been sinking in the standings with a 6-8 record.

Against the Nuggets, they seemed to be out of sync in every way possible. The offense never looked smooth and the Bulls resorted to individual play after falling behind. That sometimes works well if DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine are hitting shots, but no one could get it going.

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Denver went heavy with the ball movement and had the Bulls running in circles trying to chase the ball. Jokic had 12 of his 14 assists in the first half.

"We definitely want to come out in games more locked-in defensively, not let teams get off to easy starts," Ayo Dosunmu said Tuesday. "I think once we really focus on that and we really get that going, you're going to see a lot more success."

Slow starts have been a problem at time this season. There was a point when the Bulls had given up the most points in the first quarter, but have since worked their way up to 20th in the league.

"It's all about coming out, not tiptoeing, not trying to figure out how the game is going, but coming out aggressive, coming out together on both ends of the court," Dosunmu said. "That's something we have to get better at and we're working at it. We know the problem we're having. We know how we can get better. Now it's about clicking together and doing it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There are some other stats that suggest maybe the Bulls aren't on the right track defensively. They're 12th-best in points allowed at 110.9, but 23rd in opponents' field-goal percentage (. 475).

Until they get more consistent on the defensive end, there will always be questions about whether they need a more talented defensive player in the starting lineup. Lonzo Ball was that player last year and maybe he still can be once he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery.

"It's got to be a habit," Caruso said. "That's what the good teams do, they form habits of winning, of playing hard, of holding yourself to a standard. I think it's just trying to form that habit. There's going to be hopefully more good days than bad.

"I think the point we've got to get to is where it's one thing we can course-correct early in the game and get back to what we need to do, which I thought for the most part this year we've done, other than that last game."

Coby White will miss his eighth straight game Wednesday with a left quad contusion. He was out on the court shooting at the end of Tuesday's practice, but didn't do any fast movements.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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