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Blueprint for a Bulls loss: Defense lets up early, and the offense stalled late

The Bulls could have won this game, then the 4th quarter happened

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls fell back to .500 after losing 115-107 to the Atlanta Hawks. It was a tough night to watch the Bulls as they stormed all the way back only to fall flat in the 4th quarter.

Offense fails to show up late

It was a close game heading into the final quarter with the score 94-88 in favor of Atlanta. After relying on being able to keep themselves in the game with great shooting from Butler and Dwyane Wade, Chicago completely faded away in the 4th quarter. The Bulls only scored 19 points in the 4th, which was disappointing after scoring more than 25 in each of the first three. Chicago did shoot a decent percentage from the field (45.1%) but, just when they needed it most, the Bulls took some very poor shots. If it wasn’t Wade or Butler taking defenders on, the possession resulted in chaos and it wasn’t pretty.

There were some awful offensive shots by the Bulls. One in particular was when Rajon Rondo decided to take a ill advised step back three despite a defender being right in his face. Out of all the players to take a step back three, Rondo would be the least likely, especially considering his 18.2% three-point percentage on the season.

This was very strange to see because early in the game Rondo passed up an open three in the corner and it wasted the possession.

The Bulls had a legitimate chance to win the game but, once again, mismanagement of lineups (why was Portis in the game?) and poor offensive possessions was their downfall.

Defensive effort wasn’t showing tonight either

The other side of the ball wasn’t pretty either for Chicago, contributing to an early deficit. Atlanta shot very well from the field, making 42 of 83 (50.6%). Thabo Sefolosha took full advantage of Chicago’s shaky defense, scoring 20 points and making 8 of 9 from the field. Sefolosha was able to get past Nikola Mirotic with ease and finish at the rim thanks to Chicago’s backup bigs lack of ability to guard the paint. It was too easy for Sefolosha, who isn’t an offensive type of player. Sadly, this is the type of defense that Bulls fans have become accustomed to.

Chicago had 15 steals on the night (11 by Butler+Wade alone) as a part of a whopping 22 turnovers for the Hawks. But that also meant a lot of gambling, and a lack of effort in more fundamental coverage.

The Bulls also showed poor defense in decisively losing the rebounding battle, allowing the Hawks to get over 36% of their available offensive rebounds. It’s the worst mark in that category the Bulls have allowed all season.

Great offensive output by Jimmy Butler

Despite the loss, there was a light among the darkness. That was Jimmy Butler scoring 39 points in 39 minutes. He shot great from three-point land (4 of 9) and also got to the line 12 times. Butler is currently 9th in the NBA in FTA/game.

He also added 7 assists, making it a more complete game. Butler’s bread and butter offensively is getting to the hoop, finishing around the rim and drawing contact. If he can keep shooting consistently, it would help Chicago’s spacing issues tremendously.