How Billy Donovan Is Putting Bulls' Focus on Late-Game, Turnover Troubles

How Donovan is forcing Bulls' focus on late-game struggles originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Film clips wouldn’t cut it. Not when you blow a 16-point lead with 4:40 left, a 10-point lead with 1:47 remaining -- any way you want to frame it -- and lose to the Thunder in overtime.

No. For Billy Donovan, the only way to try to get his Bulls to understand the importance of attention to detail and late-game execution needed to win at the NBA level was to make his team watch the entire thing.

“I thought it was important for them to see those things in how the game unfolded instead of maybe just taking off and showing clips,” Donovan said via Zoom following Saturday’s practice in Dallas.

As gory of an exercise as that might have been, perhaps this is the silver lining: Coby White, whose foul on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led to the three-point play with 16.4 seconds left that forced overtime, loved it.

“It was a good day for us,” White said. “I’m pretty sure none of us want that feeling again. I’m pretty sure we’re going to learn from it. Well, I’m definitely sure we’re going to learn from it and take that next step that we need to take.”

The Bulls are on a four-game losing streak. They’ve lost the games by a combined 11 points.

Did somebody say attention to detail?

“To be honest, the concentration is a major problem,” Donovan said, bluntly.

Such lapses are what lead to, say, fouling a 3-point shooter late. Which the Bulls, almost incredibly, did for the third time in four games. At least this time, Mike Muscala didn’t make the shot for a four-point play like the Kings’ Buddy Hield or the Clippers’ Nic Batum did.

Such lapses are what lead to careless turnovers, like the one Zach LaVine committed with 58.4 seconds remaining in regulation where he just dribbled off his foot and a diving Lu Dort secured the loose ball, leading to the Thunder cutting a five-point deficit to a one-possession game following Kenrich Williams' dunk.

Such lapses are what lead to illegal screens, which both White and Lauri Markkanen set and got called for during the collapse.

“It's self-induced,” White said in agreement. “Instead of being locked in for all 48 minutes or however minutes you play in the game, sometimes I think when things aren't going our way we kind of get down on ourselves a lot.”

The Bulls committed 17 of their 24 turnovers after halftime, White finished with four and in his first season as a starting point guard, he's averaging 3.1 per game for the Bulls' league-worst total of 18.3 per game.

"Obviously, my numbers have to be down," White said.

How can the Bulls improve their attention to detail and, in theory, their late-game execution? Obviously, watching film can help. So can putting in extra work after practice, according to Donovan.

“Sometimes, you have to go through some painful lessons before you can take another step forward,” the coach said.

Re-watching that collapse would meet the painful lesson threshold requirement.

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