The Chicago Bulls dropped their final game of their NBA preseason tonight to the Atlanta Hawks 97-81 in a contest where the Bulls never led after the first eight minutes. This game was unique in that it was played in Omaha, Nebraska; which meant that it acted as a pseudo-homecoming for Creighton University’s two biggest NBA exports: Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott.
The Bulls started the game in a very active fashion thanks mostly to Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez. Wade opened the game with a beautiful bank-in jumper, then later picked the pocket of Kent Bazemore and finished in transition through two defenders. He came out fairly early on (as Tyler alluded will probably happen often this season) to allow arena favorite Doug McDermott to enter the game. Meanwhile, Robin Lopez did an excellent job of frustrating newly-acquired Dwight Howard, recording two blocks and baiting Howard into a goaltend out of the post within the first six minutes.
Michael Carter-Williams made his Chicago Bulls debut with a little under four minutes remaining in the first quarter. Offensively, he was iffy, as he committed a pretty bad charge and his jumper looked hopeless, but he also had a nice drive-and-kick to a wide open Bobby Portis in the corner (who unfortunately missed) and a nice finish on an alley-oop from Wade:
Elsewhere, the Bulls got beat pretty badly by Mike Muscala, whom Cristiano Felicio just couldn’t seem to keep up with as the former hit open jumper after open jumper. As a result, the Bulls concluded the first quarter down 25-21.
Both teams struggled to score when the game resumed, as each team logged only nine points each through the first six minutes of the second quarter. McDermott hit a beautiful turnaround jumper over Kyle Korver (to which the Omaha faithful roared in approval) and Wade hit an obscene fadeaway corner three to beat the shot clock, but other than that the Bulls proceeded to brick most of their shots. There was a particularly bad sequence with about a minute left where Paul Millsap successfully defended a 3-on-1 break against McDermott, Rajon Rondo, and Isaiah Canaan underneath the basket.
Thankfully, the Bulls actually played some pretty good defense, especially when Lopez stayed in the paint. RoLo finished the first half with six blocks to help keep the Bulls within two scores for almost the entirety of the period. The Bulls ended the first half down 44-39 after shooting a grotesque 28.6%, and both teams combined to shoot only 4-22 from beyond the arc in the first twenty four minutes of action.
The Bulls got it going early on in the third quarter thanks to Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez dialing in. The two of them combined to score nine of the first thirteen points for Chicago through the first four minutes, including a beautiful and-1 hookshot from Lopez over Dwight Howard. It was a short-lived offensive explosion, however, as the three alphas all proceeded to stink up the CenturyLink Center. Through three quarters, Rondo/Butler/Wade shot a combined 8-30 from the field, and Butler himself would have finished the third quarter 2-13 were it not for two late makes. As a result, the Bulls concluded the period down 68-62.
The offensive struggles would continue for Chicago during the final quarter, as the Hawks proceeded to go on a 19-4 run after the first minute that lasted through the next five. Kyle Korver hit two bombs in a sequence of back-to-back-back threes, one of which turned into a four point play thanks to an off-ball foul.
Speaking of Korver, the much-hyped Creighton vs. Creighton matchup saw McDermott get thoroughly outplayed by his fellow Bluejay. Although McDermott scored sixteen points off the bench, he shot only 5-15 and 2-6 from three in what was a wild and inefficient game for him (although he did his all four of his freethrows). Meanwhile, Korver hit four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc and equalled McDermott’s point total on six less shots while shooting 60% from the field. As Tyler (who had press credentials for tonight’s game as an Omaha resident!) will likely attest, McDermott seemed to get bigger cheers from the crowd, but the night belonged to the former Hot Sauce King of Chicago.
The game concluded with a final score of 97-81 in favor of the Hawks, and the Bulls ended the game shooting 30.5% overall and made only four of their twenty-two threes. Meanwhile, the Hawks rebounded in the second half to shoot 7-14 from three and shot 47.1% from the field overall. Despite Lopez playing him well for almost the entire game, Dwight Howard still finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Although the three alphas each dished out six assists, they finished the game shooting 9-37 combined, while Rondo and Wade in particular put up clunkers with respective shooting performances of 1-7 and 3-14.
Let’s hope this game was an anomaly and not a sign of things to come, as the three best players on the Bulls simply cannot shoot an aggregate 24% from the field if this team wants to win games. The Bulls conclude the preseason with a 3-4 record and will have a week off before opening the season at home versus the Boston Celtics next Thursday. Until then, Go Cubs Go.