The Bulls wasted huge nights from Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade in the loss against the Hawks Wednesday night. The fatigue of playing a night ago did not hinder their ability to knock down difficult shots throughout the game, but may be responsible for the fourth quarter collapse on the dropped the Bulls to 23-24 on the season.
Butler was phenomenal in his 40 minutes on the court, scoring 40 points on 13/22 shooting from the field. He made 4/8 of his three point attempts and connected on all ten of his free throws. After a relatively quiet night in Orlando, Butler was hunting his shot against Atlanta’s 5th ranked defense. Butler was relentless in getting to his favorite spots on the floor, knocking down several jumpers from the right wing, and barreling to the rim through contact.
Dwyane Wade’s performance on the second night of back-to-backs is not something to be relied upon, but against the Hawks Wednesday, Wade was excellent. Dwyane finished with 33 points on 58% shooting, knocking down a bevy of difficult shots that seemingly only Wade can make.
Wade's gonna be able to get this move off into his 80s pic.twitter.com/PIEspUIDWe— Jacob Bikshorn (@OldManBikshorn) January 26, 2017
Wade and Butler, who shared a lot of the point guard responsibilities in this game, combined for five assists and committed just two turnovers. The duo also tallied five steals.
Despite monster games from their best two players, the supporting cast was not able to provide enough help to hold onto a ten point lead with three minutes left in the game. The lead was cut down to just one over a brutal 75 second stretch in which the Bulls completely collapsed on defense. The Hawks connected on three consecutive wide open shots from beyond the arc and the Bulls never recovered. The entire team was dying on screens all night, and the Hawks took advantage, making 17/30 of their threes.
Until that final stretch, credit Hoiberg for getting his best shooting lineups on the floor for extended minutes in this game. Lineups featuring Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and Paul Zipser transform the Bulls offense and open up massive driving lanes for whichever lead guard they share the floor with. Those three shooters paired with Felicio and Butler create a lot of difficult decisions for a defense.
Despite finally having the open offense that Hoiberg famously wanted to install when he first came to the organization, Fred opted to close the game with Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson, and went with Zipser as the only guy capable of stretching the floor. This group worked fine when Wade and Butler were hitting impossibly difficult shots, but when the Hawks clamped down on defense for the final three minutes, the lack of ball movement and space on the floor prevented the Bulls from matching Atlanta’s hot shooting.
After Butler and Wade, Doug McDermott was the only other Bull to score in double figures. All ten of his points came in the first half. I really don’t understand why Zipser, who was 0/4 in the game and missed a crucial three in the final stretch, was given the opportunity to close over Doug, who had a very solid game.
Nikola Mirotic had a terrible all around game. He shot 3/11 from the field and 1/5 from three, including an open shot that would have given the Bulls the lead with less than a minute left to play. It wasn’t just that Niko was missing his shots, it’s that the quality of shots he was taking was extremely poor. Several times Mirotic fired off contested jump shots with plenty of time left on the shot clock. Mirotic was also a liability on defense. Paul Milsap, who scored 21 points, successfully attacked him in the post several times.
Felicio struggled in his twenty minutes on the court. Dwight Howard was able to establish great position on him deep in the paint several times, and Felicio did a poor job of protecting the rim against Atlanta’s drivers.
Fred Hoiberg elected to give Jerian Grant his second consecutive start, but the second year guard did nothing to make himself stand out on the court. Grant shot 1/4 in ten first half minutes, missing both his three point attempts and failing to grab a rebound or record an assist.
So long as Fred is willing to try anyone at point guard, I would like to see him give Valentine some minutes with the rest of the starters. With Wade and Butler. Valentine would provide some spacing with a unit that desperately needs it. Besides, on a team that should be focused on the future, it is very frustrating to see the team’s first round pick glued to the bench.
This was a game that the Bulls lead for 45 minutes and one where their two best players combined for an efficient 73 points. The loss highlights their extreme lack of depth, and Hoiberg’s perplexing lineup decisions. This game was so Bulls.