While the Chicago Bulls sure looked happy to be home, they also looked a wee bit jet-lagged.
There is no question Billy Donovan’s crew came out with the sense of urgency we wanted to see. Not only were they sharing the ball well in the halfcourt, but they were forcing the Hawks’ defense to run in transition. The problem, however, was that they couldn’t buy a bucket.
As decent as the looks were, they might as well have left their touch in Paris. Multiple shots bricked off the backboard or hit off the front of the rim, and it led to just 17 points in the first quarter, which marked their lowest-scoring opening frame of the season.
Then, I guess they took a power nap before the second quarter got underway.
The Bulls’ bench flipped a switch for the entire team, especially Alex Caruso. The defensive menace helped Chicago generate 10 steals in the first half, marking their third-straight game with double-digit steals (a season-best stretch). It was largely this ability to turn these turnovers into points that helped Chicago turn 17 first-quarter points into 40 second-quarter points.
Indeed, scoring points off turnovers ended up being the story of the night. Despite the Hawks evening the game back up in the 3rd quarter, the Bulls’ defense stayed locked in and played a big role in pushing them back over the top. By the end of the night, they won the points off TOV battle 25-8 and the fastbreak battle 16-9.
What was even more encouraging was the fact that it was a team-wide effort that closed out the game. The Bulls started the 4th quarter on an 11-3 run and ended up winning the final frame 33-22. Patrick Williams was a big part of locking in the victory, scoring 4 of those first 11 points while also dishing a beautiful no-look dime for the Vooch dunk.
Williams ended the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds, which marked his first double-double of the season. If the Bulls can continue to receive this kind of aggressive and confident play from Williams, their chance of going on a genuine second-half run goes up exponentially.
Speaking of which, this game shrunk Atlanta’s lead for the 8th seed to just 1.0 game. The Bulls will now face an Indiana Pacers team that has lost seven straight and sits a half-game ahead of them tomorrow night. Let’s hope those legs stay fresh!
Check out the full box score here.