A Lot Went Wrong, Hawks Own the Paint, Will the Bucks Go Full Strength? And Other Bulls Bullets
One night you erase a 23-point lead against the second-best team in the West. The next night you lose by 18 points to a fellow Play-In squad that’s missing two of their starters.
The 2022-23 Chicago Bulls in a nutshell, folks.
- I can’t necessarily say I’m mad or disappointed. I mean, how could I be when this is the same kind of outcome we’ve watched play out numerous times before? While I did start to build a little bit of hope that this was a completely rejuvenated Bulls team, I wouldn’t let that hope break a certain threshold. The fact of the matter is that this group was going to slip back into their old ways at some point. The question now is can they pull themselves back out?
- For what it’s worth, I decided to reserve some of my more philosophical thoughts on last night’s loss for a separate short post. I’ll get that out sometime this afternoon. For now, let’s just discuss some logistics and what exactly went wrong in such a high-stakes game.
- First things first, let me remind you that the Bulls did still clinch a Play-In Tournament spot last night. The Orlando Magic lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, thus locking the Bulls into a top-10 seed. While the exact seed they will end up in, technically, remains up for grabs, we do at least know for sure that they will play a game after April 9.
- If they play like they did last night, however, there is no chance they’ll win that game. After a performance where they dished 29 assists and shot 53.2 percent from the field, the Bulls mustered just 16 assists on a mortal 46.1 percent shooting effort. Even worse, the defense that has been the catalyst for this late-season turnaround was completely non-existent. The Bulls were repeatedly blown by on straight-line drives to the rim and fell apart on rotations.
- What’s even more annoying is that they knew coming into this game that the Hawks were going to pressure the rim. Atlanta is a team that has averaged the second-most points in the paint per game since the All-Star break. It’s a pretty darn one-dimensional offense. The Bulls came into the night allowing the fewest points in the paint since the All-Star break … so what the heck happened? I understand that squads have their off nights, but allowing a team to outscore you 70-52 in points in the paint? At this point in the season!? That’s just an effort issue.
- While I think the Hawks’ length at the wing presented some problems for this Bulls team, I still find this to be another game underlined by missed opportunities. Every single time it felt like the Bulls had a chance to regain the momentum, they would either slip up on defense, miss a wide-open 3, or shank an easy layup. They had multiple chances in transition – their bread and butter – to seemingly break the game wide-open but simply couldn’t execute. Coby White, in particular, had a really rough night going just 3-10 from the field.
- To the Bulls’ credit, they continued to dominate the points off turnovers department. The Hawks have the second-lowest TOV% in the NBA, but the Bulls still forced them into 17 mistakes and scored 23 points off the turnovers. The big problem, though, was that the Bulls let Atlanta almost get that all back in the fastbreak. The Hawks outscored Chicago 22-9 in fastbreak points thanks – in large part – to the Bulls’ own transition mistakes and a lot of long rebounds off clanked 3s.
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- Anyway, the Bulls have no choice but to put this game behind them ASAP. They will now have to head up north to play the Milwaukee Bucks later tonight. While they have shockingly won two of their games against the Bucks this year, Giannis and Co. have the best record since the All-Star break and have scored 130 points at least four times since March 22.
- Now, the good news is that the Bucks did have to play last night in Washington, so they will not walk into tonight with better legs. We also can’t rule out the Bulls potentially catching a big break. The Bucks have a three-game lead over the Celtics and are prime to finish as the East’s top team. They might see this matchup as a good opportunity to rest some starters with just two more games to go.
- They could also see this as an opportunity to officially secure the top seed and rest the next two games. A win for them tonight would give them the best record in both the East and the NBA as a whole. However, they could also achieve that with a Celtics loss, and they have a tough matchup against the Raptors this evening.
- Coby White didn’t have the best game last night, but he did have another epic dunk!
- I hate the idea of the Bulls having to go into any of these buildings. More on potential Play-In matchups here.
- These are the kinds of flashes that make it so hard to give up on Patrick Williams.
- Love some defensive line help!
- Take another chance on Tinordi?
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