New-look Bulls starting lineup still falls short and haunted by ghosts

SAN FRANCISCO – Goran Dragic wasn’t wearing a hat.

It didn’t stop Dragic from reaching up for an imaginary one on his head, pretending to take it off, and then giving it a wave in a direction where no one was actually located.

The game hadn’t even started, and Stephen Curry already had the veteran Bulls guard seeing ghosts.

“No,” Dragic said on Friday, when asked if he had ever seen a player that runs around on an offensive set as much as Curry does. “He’s a unique player, and that’s why he’s changed the entire NBA.

“That’s why, here, I tip my hat to him.”

Curry’s greatness isn’t even an argument these days. Even on a night in which the Bulls held him to just 19 points in the 119-111 loss to the Warriors, Curry’s presence was still felt with the ridiculous amount of time he spends forcing defenders to chase him around during offensive sets.

That’s the secret sauce to Curry’s game in what Dragic described as “relentless.”

“Most of the time he’s doing that without the ball,” Dragic said. “That’s what’s really unique is even though he doesn’t have the ball, he’s creating mismatches. It’s tough to guard if you have to do it by yourself.”

That was the focus going into the prep of defending Curry on Friday.

So much so that coach Billy Donovan changed his starting lineup to best try and remedy that, as well as spark something out of a unit that has been inconsistent all season long. Out was Ayo Dosunmu, and in was Alex Caruso to try and run with Curry.

Donovan also sat usual starter Patrick Williams in favor of Javonte Green.

“The decision to do this wasn’t just for this game [against Golden State],” Donovan said afterwards. “It was more to see, ‘OK, let’s see what this looks like here a little bit.’ That’s really what it was more about.

“I just wanted to take a look at something different and see what that would look like.”

Donovan’s decision was helped a bit by the blowout loss in Phoenix two nights earlier, and when asked about that change being necessary by the coach, guard Zach LaVine had a pull-no-punches answer.

“Nah, nah, I think that was [Donovan’s] opinion,” LaVine said.

As far as how the new-look lineup and rotation looked in its debut? Let’s just say it was a very mixed bag.

The Bulls fell behind as much as 19 in the third quarter, as Golden State’s Jordan Poole went nuts for 13 points off the bench in that stanza.

Then it was like the two teams switched places, as the Warriors (12-11) started turning ice cold and the Bulls started figuring it out.

A Green layup with 6:14 left in the game brought the Bulls to within four. With 2:27 left, a LaVine three cut the deficit to just one. But the champs are the champs for a reason, and when Draymond Green – of all people – hit a three on the very next possession, it seemed to be a gut punch from which there was no recovery, as Golden State closed it out the rest of the way.

So where does this all go from here?

Physically to Sacramento for the finale of this six-game road trip. Mentally with the new look, however, Donovan will watch it, evaluate it, and see how it holds up.

“I’m not trying to make a decision after two or three games, and then project,” Donovan said. “I think there was a pretty good body of work with the number of games we played. I just wanted to take a look at something different.”

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