If this season, guised as evaluation, is actually a ‘stealth tank’...the Bulls aren’t really getting that ‘stealth’ part right.
In the season opener at home (at least no fans to boo and a ‘Fire AdvisorPax!’ chant?) the Bulls got punched in the mouth early and then repeatedly were metaphorically slugged in the face in a truly dismal 124-104 loss that was about five times worse than that score indicates.
It was just an abhorrent first half to open the year, where the Hawks got to 83 points (!) by shooting 66% or over for both quarters, including going 16/19 in the paint. The Bulls were terrible in nearly all aspects of the defense: they were losing guys over screens, not helping at the rim, and in transition were especially abysmal.
There were a lot of standouts for Atlanta, but as expected it was Trae Young leading the way: both in showing his patented ridiculous range but also baiting several fouls and setting up a couple massive John Collins lobs.
Trae Young cooks the Bulls for 27 at half ❄️— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 24, 2020
He’s in mid-season form pic.twitter.com/CCkQazQLDM
Meanwhile very little went right for the Bulls. Coby White and Wendell Carter were both terrible and continued to show a lack of cohesion that was also exhibited preseason. I don’t know how many turnovers they technically combined for in the half but let’s conservatively guess a million:
In that first half, which is even stretching to call ‘competitive portion of the game’, there were very few positives. Patrick Williams started and showed some flashes of what he can maybe bring to the next great Bulls team (in the 2029-30 season?). Zach LaVine had 17, but it was mostly just getting his own shots (no fault of his there, it was all they could do) and he picked up 4 fouls. Markkanen shot 4-5 from three to get 16 at half himself, but was awful in all other aspects of the game.
The first half was landmarked at a play with a few minutes remaining, where Coby White thought a rebound was going to go out of bounds only to see Young snatch it up and hit a three. Then LaVine picked up his 4th foul on offense followed by another Young three to push the Bulls deficit to 28. Thankfully even with 3 minutes remaining it did not get worse as they went in down merely 24.
It could’ve been worse, as with some lineups out there it really highlighted the failings of the Bulls offseason: with Tomas Satoransky unavailable it meant lots (more than zero) of minutes for Arcidiacono, for a minute there was a lineup of Arch/Williams/Hutch/OPJ/Hutchison/Gafford (starkly against a Hawks lineup with 4 shooters), plus we actually saw Adam Mokoka enter as the Bulls 10th player in the first quarter.
Then the 3rd quarter opened up worse:
- Young had an and-1 floater into WCJ
- LaVine had a foul drawn overturned to get called on him
- A Trae lob to Collins
- LaVine stepped out of bounds for another turnover
- LaVine leaves the game with the fouls, and you hear the words...”as Mokoka is guarding Trae Young” when as Young draws 3 FTs about forty feet from the basket.
(no Satorasky but also no Temple and Valentine. But Mokoka didn’t play much preseason either. So maybe fire Billy Donovan? At least I wasn’t waiting with baited breath for him to say something stupid post-game)
The Hawks lead swelled to 40 midway through the third, and at that point LaVine’s foul trouble didn’t really matter as he was put back in to look fairly miserable in garbage time. He finished with 22 points but was 1-9 from three. Markkanen only had 5 in the second half to finish with 21. Williams was statistically their best offensive player with 16 on 5-11 shooting, playing a team-high 33 minutes.
For the Hawks, Young cruised to 37 in only 26 minutes of action. They had 6 other guys in double-figures. They were totally dominant tonight.
And that was with several key defensive pieces out of this game. This was looking like perhaps a win and the Bulls went down 40 damned points. Hopefully it provided a lot of evaluation.