The loss to the Nets was a reminder of the talent gap the Bulls have with some of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, even with Zach LaVine sitting. Now it’s about finishing up against Milwaukee, and then many offseason questions to answer.
The season of “what ifs’’ ends on Sunday, when the Bulls host Milwaukee in the finale.
A reminder of “Not even close?’’
That was handed out on Saturday.
With Brooklyn’s “Big Three’’ of future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving reunited on the court for the first time in three months, even with huge amounts of rust build up, they beat the Bulls 105-91.
Not that the three looked lights out by any means, but with the Bulls coming off the disappointment of officially being eliminated from the play-in game on Friday thanks to a Washington win over the Cavs, as well as coach Billy Donovan sitting out Zach LaVine, Tomas Satoransky and Daniel Theis, Brooklyn didn’t need the trio to look great.
It was more about getting them reps with each other as they prepare for a postseason run.
That they did, as Durant had 12 points and nine rebounds in 30minutes of work, Irving led them with 22 points, and Harden had five points and seven assists in 25 minutes of work.
As for the Bulls (30-41), it was dealing with the sting of unfulfilled goals, and at the same time trying to reconcile with the idea that the best is still in front of them.
Not easy to do when the opposing bench has the fire power of the Nets, while the Bulls have an All-Star duo in Nikola Vucevic and LaVine that still needs time together, and then a whole bunch of question marks surrounding them.
“Definitely disappointing,’’ Vucevic said of falling short of their playoff goals. “We really felt like we had a chance to get there and to get in the play-in and play for something further. But there were a lot of things that happened along the way that didn’t help us, either. I mean it’s hard to judge it now. There were definitely things we could have done better.’’
There’s no doubting that.
Defense, physicality, lack of urgency, all of it was on display far too often this season. This roster has to wear that, and can’t necessarily blame a lack of cohesion on it.
Where they do get a small pass, however, is the fact that because of the condensed second-half schedule, practice time was almost impossible to pull off. No biggie for some teams. But for a Bulls front office that added five new players at the trade deadline, they definitely had too many moments where they looked like a pick-up team thrown together at the local YMCA.
“When you make a trade midseason, a lot of things change and sometimes it takes more time, and unfortunately we didn’t have that,’’ Vucevic said. “It is disappointing we didn’t achieve our goal, so we have to be realistic and say we failed at that. But the only thing we can do is move forward and hopefully use that as motivation going into next year.’’
With still one game left, the Bulls locker room remained somewhat careful not to skip steps and start jumping into offseason changes and what needed to be worked on. That will likely come the next few days.
One positive, however, was rookie Patrick Williams taking an over-due aggressive approach on the offensive end, scoring 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
Donovan had been talking to Williams about being too unselfish, and the latest film session between the two hopefully unlocked something.
“It definitely helps, just kind of see how it is from a film point of view, it kind of feels or looks different to me out there on the court than it does on film, but when you have a birds eye view it kind of makes it easier to read,’’ Williams said. “They obviously trust me and have confidence in me, so not letting them down and having confidence in myself.’’