Bulls beat the Raptors, as coach Billy Donovan keeps emphasizing focusJoe Cowleyon April 9, 2021 at 2:43 am

Donovan knows that it’s human nature to get caught up in the scores and standings on a nightly basis, but with 22 regular-season games left, he wants the focus to be in the right place.

There’s moments when Billy Donovan is wordy in his replies to the media, making sure there’s a full understanding of what he’s explaining.

Then there’s times when the Bulls coach just bottom lines it.

Like Thursday.

“Whenever our schedule is done, it’s going to be we won enough or we just didn’t,’’ Donovan said, discussing where his team was after the 122-113 win over Toronto.

Why was this even a topic for a team that was 22-28, and still stuck in the final play-in spot as the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference?

Because with just 22 regular-season games left, Donovan understands human nature.

Even veteran players like Thad Young are admittedly fixated on the standings each night, checking scores and positioning of other teams in the East. Donovan wants to make sure the energy is focused in the right place. With so many games crammed into the next five weeks, it’s a message that the coach will continue hammering home.

“Our film sessions, our shoot-arounds, our walk-throughs have got to be good, they’ve got to be detailed, and there’s gotta be great focus,’’ Donovan said. “I always say to these guys I don’t need your bodies physically right now, I need your minds.

“There’s this I think the human element of everyday looking at the standings and looking at who won, who lost, and I think what happens a lot of times is you get caught up in that stuff and fail to realize that you’ve got to focus on yourself.’’

That focus was evident against an undermanned Raptors roster, missing the lethal backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Not only two of the top scorers for Toronto (20-32), but two of their better defenders.

Bulls guards weren’t feeling much sympathy.

Zach LaVine finished with 22 points and 13 assists, and Tomas Satoransky had seven assists, as the ball moved all night for the visiting team, evident by the 35 total assists.

As far as taking care of the dirty work in the paint, with Daniel Theis back in the rotation after missing the last game for personal reasons, the Bulls outrebounded the home team 49-41, with Theis responsible for 10 of those off the bench.

Not the only big off the bench to impact the game, as Lauri Markkanen added 18 points and was a plus-23 in plus/minus. He looked more physical against Toronto, and teammates like Zach LaVine felt like Markkanen was more physical.

A style of basketball that’s finally being embraced by this group in the wake of the five new faces brought in at the trade deadline.

“We’ve put a bigger emphasis on getting into bodies,’’ Markkanen said. “We’re just trying to be a more physical team and I think we’ve been able to do that.’’

If there was a moment that Donovan could pick on it was the final half of the fourth quarter, as the Bulls seemed to get bored with the process, or at least turn the attention toward the key showdown they have in Atlanta on Friday night.

Toronto outscored the Bulls 34-25 in that final stanza, and needed LaVine to end a 9-0 run and any hopes of a comeback, as the All-Star guard hit a layup with 1:27 left and then nailed a three-pointer.

“Zach has done everything he can to impact the group and impact winning,’’ Donovan said of LaVine’s night. “Besides scoring, I think he’s working defensively, he’s trying to set guys up and make the right basketball play. He continues to improve and put us as a team in position to win.’’

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