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Notes from a Bulls loss that very few people watched

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

I’m assuming everyone watched this game last night? Of course you did.

But in case you didn’t, 82-0 is not in play anymore. I really thought the Bulls had a chance after those first three games.

The Bulls fell to the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, suffering their first loss of the season in a tight ball game, 107-100.

Chicago, who were down as much as 16 at one point in the fourth quarter, had several opportunities in the fourth quarter to put themselves ahead after fighting their way back. With the game tied at 100 with 1:56 left, Nikola Mirotic missed two consecutive free throws that would’ve put the Bulls ahead. Boston responded by scoring seven straight unanswered points to pull away.

Down the stretch, what ultimately doomed them was questionable decision making by Fred Hoiberg and Rajon Rondo down the stretch, and an inability to get stops.

Lack of three point shooting

Through the first three games, the Bulls were flames from beyond the arc. Though I think most of us knew that wouldn’t last throughout the season. Doug McDermott did not play because of concussion like symptoms from a hit he took during Monday’s game in Brooklyn. And with McDermott out for the night, the Bulls lack of shooting from deep through this roster in comparison to the Celtics was a big difference in the game.

The Bulls went 7-20 from deep, with three of those makes coming from Mirotic, and two from Jimmy Butler late. Meanwhile, the Celtics went 14-32 including four from Amir Johnson in the third quarter alone (he had 16 points in the quarter). Even with the lack of three point shooting, the Bulls were able to stay in the game, but that plus the plethora of turnovers put the nail in the coffin.

So. Many. Turnovers.

One of the big storylines during the Bulls’ preseason was their accumulation of turnovers. The first couple regular season games went well, before getting a little too careless in a blowout win over Brooklyn. Then Wednesday, whether it was threading the needle too much off the bounce to post players, or via illegal screens, they were extremely careless with 19 turnovers compared to the Celtics 12.

Taj Gibson and Rondo were particularly awful with the ball. After a strong start to the season, Gibson was, to put it bluntly: not good. The biggest thing was he just couldn’t handle the ball in the post, putting it on the ground and losing it far too often, resulting in four turnovers. As for Rondo, it was him being careless with the ball in transition and just trying passes with a high degree of difficultly. Prior to the season, we heard a lot about Rondo’s carelessness in transition, and in this game we saw just that. Plays where there was either an easy opportunity for a layup or simple dump-off were exchanged for passes thrown without purpose.

Again, this was a big issue heading into the season, Chicago needs to make sure to keep their turnovers down to help mitigate the other areas of weakness with this team.

Fred Hoiberg’s Decision Making

Alright, Fred got off to a good start to the season. Hell, he’s even got Jimmy Butler on his side now! But Wednesday night was not one of Hoiberg’s better one’s, at least down the final few minutes. He opted to play Rondo, along with Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic.

I understand the Rondo and Niko scenario to an extent, but there’s no reason Portis should’ve been playing over Taj Gibson or Robin Lopez. Portis gave some OK minutes, but the Bulls needed stops defensively and they weren’t able to do so with the latter. Portis and Rondo together were atrocious in defending the pick-and-roll in the final minutes. Mostly because Rondo can’t defend in that situation and also Portis’s lack of rim protection and general defensive ineptitude at this stage of his career.

And then the Bulls came out set up in an ATO (after timeout) within the final minute and couldn’t even get the ball in before burning a timeout. When they did, the following play resulted in a less than ideal shot.

Obviously it’s early in the season still, but this is one area where Hoiberg struggled with last year, and you’d hope to see him make improvements in year two.

Individual Performances

I’ll try to be somewhat positive in this part. With Michael Carter-Williams out for a month, and McDermott out for the game, Wednesday night opened up the door for minutes from Denzel Valentine and Jerian Grant. The former only received seven minutes and for the most part from my perspective held his own on both ends.

But it was the latter of the two that really impressed. Grant started the season completely out of the rotation and on the inactive list for the Bulls. Thrusted into the rotation on Wednesday, Grant played pretty damn well if you ask me. He was solid on the defensive end, and on offense was able to penetrate, score and pass. Not to mention taking advantage of Isaiah Thomas out of the post. He finished in 13 minutes with six points, two boards, three assists and a +10. After tonight, Grant certainly helped himself moving forward in the battle to fill in for MCW.

The Bulls came back down to earth for a bit during Wednesday’s contest in Boston. There were some bad things obviously, but there were also some positives to take away as well. When faced with some adversity; injuries and being down 16 in the fourth quarter, they fought down to the end. Friday night, the Bulls are back home and welcome Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.