Bulls searching for explanations as slow starts continue to haunt themJoe Cowleyon November 7, 2021 at 7:58 pm

In losing two of the last three games, the constant has been huge first-half deficits thanks to slow starts on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Considering the schedule the next few weeks, it needs to be addressed sooner than later.

Zach LaVine knows how ugly the numbers are.

The Bulls guard just doesn’t have a definitive solution on how to fix it.

“We just have to do a better job of coming out and setting the tone,” LaVine said. “We’re playing from behind almost every game now and you keep living dangerous you are going to end up losing some of these games.”

They were, and they did in dropping two of their last three.

How far behind?

Since last Monday, facing Boston and Philadelphia twice, the Bulls closed first halves down a total of 32 points. That’s a 10.7-point first-half deficit per game. Even worse, they’ve been down in first halves a total of 38 points total in that same span.

It’s great that they’ve had a fire lit in the halftime locker room and made runs in all three games, even coming back from 19 down in the third quarter against the Celtics and winning, but good teams come ready to play at tip-off. That was LaVine’s point.

“It’s frustrating,” the All-Star said. “We are trying to figure out how to get off to a better start. We come back every game, but it’s not like we want to live like that.”

Not with the upcoming schedule they don’t.

The Bulls host Brooklyn on Monday, Dallas on Wednesday, and then are off to the West Coast to play Golden State, both Los Angeles teams, Portland and Denver.

Entering Sunday, not one of those teams was below .500, despite numerous struggles from the likes of the Lakers, Clippers and Trail Blazers. Helping them get over some early-season growing pains by falling behind early could make for a very bad next few weeks.

That’s why figuring out how to change it is an immediate priority. The Bulls went through similar lulls like this last season, but youth and then frequent lineup changes were built-in excuses. Not the case now, especially with this starting group.

LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and even Lonzo Ball, have years of experience under their belts. Obviously not with each other, but still …

“You understand how much firepower you have,” LaVine said, when the idea of still trying to figure it out was brought up. “But this also is a new team. I am not blaming that – we have to get off to better starts and figure out why [we’re not].”

The one starter easiest to point a finger at right now — fair or unfair? Vucevic.

Not only was the double-double machine just 8-for-20 from the field in the first half of the last three games, but was a combined minus-39 in plus/minus. Facing off against the 76ers’ Joel Embiid in the last two contests hasn’t helped, but the first nine games of the season have been a bit shaky for Vucevic.

The center was a career 49.4% shooter from the field and 35.4% from three, but will enter the game against the Nets shooting 38% from the field this season, and a dismal 25.6% from three.

Coach Billy Donovan was doing all he could to get Vucevic going, getting him familiar work in the post, but also at the top of the arch as a facilitator, and feels like it’s only a matter of time for the numbers to return to the career stats.

“I think he’s really trying to figure out how to play with a lot of different guys,” Donovan said of Vucevic. “We’ve got to all do a better job, me included, to find different ways to find him.

“He hasn’t shot the ball well. I think that’s more a comfort thing than I would be worried about that. It’s just there’s a learning curve for him playing with all these guys.”

One the Bulls better figure out quickly.

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