Carter ready to change themes after Bulls loss to Cavs
After the Bulls' fourth loss in five games to start the season, Wendell Carter Jr. officially rescinded the Bulls' playoff goal.
It's still a goal, obviously, but why talk about being a playoff team when the rebuilding Bulls still had so much progress to make this season? The focus should have been on learning and improving every day, not declaring themselves a playoff team on media day.
That reality sunk in with Carter after Wednesday's 117-111 loss at Cleveland. The Bulls didn't blow a late lead this time, but they did fade badly after a good start. The Cavaliers won the fourth quarter 37-29.
"Instead of us talking about being a playoff team, people hollering about something that's so far away from now, we need to focus on each individual matchup each and every night," Carter told reporters after the game. "That will take care of itself if we look at each game and take it like it's our last game.
"I feel like we got too caught up in, 'Oh, we're a playoff team. We've got the team, we've got veterans around us.' All that is great, but we just need to win. You know what I'm saying?"
At this point, the Bulls are a long, long way from being a playoff team. Sure it's early and a lot could happen, but they were hoping to get off a to a good start. While, they've played four of five on the road so far, all four opponents didn't make the playoffs last year and weren't widely expected to see the next postseason.
The 1-4 record indicates where the Bulls are right now: Not very good.
"Of course I'm a competitor, I want to make it to the playoffs, but that's not my mindset," Carter said. "My mindset is I want to win Friday. Then after that, once that game is over, I want to win the next game. That's kind of how my mindset has changed."
Attention to detail will be what pushes the Bulls in a winning direction and they haven't had it so far. They look good early in games, then struggle to get good shots when the opponent inevitably turns up the heat on defense.
The guys they thought were stars haven't delivered with any consistency. Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with 16 points in Wednesday. Otto Porter Jr. and Carter added 15 points, while Thad Young scored 14 off the bench.
Rookie Coby White had his third straight quiet game, shooting 3-for-12 from the field. Kris Dunn is now 0-for-9 from 3-point range on the season.
Porter turned his best game of the season, but 15 points and 5 rebounds should be his worst game, not his best.
The Bulls were outrebounded again, this time 47-32 as a couple of Cavs veterans had big games. Kevin Love finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds, while Tristan Thompson added 23 and 10.
Cleveland's clinching basket came from a familiar mistake. LaVine lost track of Collin Sexton, who cut behind him, took a pass and threw down a monster dunk over Carter, who came over late to try to help. Sexton's slam made it 112-106 with 28.5 seconds left.
On the positive side, the Bulls finished with 25 assists and just 6 turnovers, and they shot it better from 3-point range (35.9 percent).
"I think we've played in competitive games on the road. I think we've battled," coach Jim Boylen said after the game. "We haven't played as well in key moments as I had hoped, and they had hoped to. That's part of the learning process. We're playing competitive basketball."