It wasn’t as bad as the blown 23-point lead against the Spurs, but Bulls coach Billy Donovan has seen enough and wants his team to stop letting go of the rope late.
Reminded before Friday night’s game against the Nuggets that the Bulls hadn’t won in Denver since February 2006, 19-year-old rookie forward Patrick Williams offered a reminder of his own.
“Yeah, I mean, I was 5,’’ Williams said as the video call turned to giggles.
There was very little to laugh about by the time Friday night ended. In control of the game most of the night, the Bulls again blew a big lead. And while it wasn’t 23 points, like the lead they blew against the Spurs two nights earlier, they were nonetheless up by 14 with eight minutes to go before eventually losing 131-127 in overtime.
“We play like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s what we do. The amount of things we had to do to put them in position to win the game was mind-boggling. But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I think it’s a great challenge for our team. . . . For us to become the team I think we can become, and play basketball the way we do for really long stretches of time, this is an area we have to overcome. We have to find a way to make the necessary plays. And it wasn’t one play — it was a lot of them.”
Two in particular stood out. The first was guard Coby White fouling Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. on a three-point attempt with 7:27 left. The other was the play that tied the game in regulation. Bulls forward Thad Young got sucked in on center Nikola Jokic, who found Jamal Murray for the tying shot with 0.4 on the clock.
Hutchison’s hiatus almost over
There will be a place for forward Chandler Hutchison when he’s ready to return to the rotation. How that will look and whom he replaces are details Donovan will figure out. What’s important is that Hutchison will be returning “sooner than later,’’ Donovan said.
Hutchison also posted a message on Instagram that he was indeed returning soon.
“He and I have had a chance to talk several different times,” Donovan said. “I think he’s doing a lot better, and I think he’s working toward getting himself back. The exact date, I am not quite sure.”
The Bulls’ 2018 first-round pick has been out since Feb. 5, missing 19 games with unspecified personal issues. In his absence, Otto Porter Jr. has returned to the rotation after a back injury, while Denzel Valentine also has been getting minutes at small forward.
Temple coming along
Veteran Garrett Temple has missed four straight games with a sprained left ankle, but he continues to progress on this weekend trip.
“He’s able to do more and more, which is encouraging,” Donovan said. “After the first couple of days of evaluating him, dealing with swelling and things . . . he’s responded very well. He’s been able to do different things on the court. [Friday], actually, at shootaround, he was doing some shooting, which was good to see. He’s definitely progressing, but a lot is going to depend on the cutting, the straight line running and how he responds.”