The Bulls were too small against a Trae-less Hawks team
the dream for a Celtics round-one matchup is all but dead
If I could offer some betting advice…I’d be better at gambling!
But seriously folks, it was foreseeable that the pregame news that Trae Young would miss Tuesday night’s matchup in Chicago would mean his Hawks actually would have a better chance at a win.
Starting 6’6” AJ Griffin instead of Young, the Hawks went jumbo in their opening lineup with their now-unconventional 2-big frontcourt of Clint Capela and John Collins. De’Andre Hunter was also absent in this one, but the Hawks had the somewhat similarly sized Saddiq Bey to replace him.
The Bulls, to use a Patrick Beverley term, were “too small”.
The Bulls saw the Hawks jump out to a 13-2 lead and seeing the deficit never get much smaller than that in what was a 119-101 loss after you memory-hole the Marko hours in garbage time (all stats I used intentionally cut off the final 2:05).
In that non-white-flag time of the game, the Bulls had their typical deficiency from the 3-point line, but it wasn’t too stark. Even when with Trae Young, the Hawks don’t shoot a ton of threes, and without him last night they went only 10/27, merely three more makes than the Bulls. That’s still a deficit, and cold nights from their few volume snipers (Zach LaVine 1-7, Coby White 3-10…no need to raise your hand, Vuc, you’re not relied upon) meant it’d be one of those nights, but it wasn’t the glaring reason the Bulls lost this game.
And though the Bulls tried to follow the script they wrote the prior game against the Grizzlies, turning the opponent over a bunch, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t Grizzlies-bad, but the Hawks had 9 turnovers in the 2nd half. While the Bulls ultimately won the points-off-turnovers comparison, they left a lot more points on the table because of these fundamental problems: they can’t shoot threes and are too small.
Instead it was inside the paint. The Hawks had a very good night on the offensive glass, getting 26.3% of available misses on offense which would be a top-10 number in the league. They were even better on the defensive glass, holding the Bulls to just 11.1% retention of their misses, which would be far and away the best defensive rebounding team in basketball if over the course of a whole season.
Then, further widened by those missed layups by the Bulls, the Hawks dominated the points in the paint category, with 66 to the Bulls 48.
It was a noticeably-tough game for Coby White, here. There was that missed transition layup in the above clip, and then a couple of plays where he was noticeably smaller than the Hawks’ bench counterpart in 6’8” Jalen Johnson. This Coby shot was summarily swatted:
(I’ll have to figure out how to embed these, for now: click)
And then Coby was bullied by Johnson easily and dismissively on this play.
Again, more noticeable than accurately measuring who’s at fault. It was really a team effort on that front. Patrick Williams is a swing factor in this, and he had one of his better games of the season, but it was far from enough. The team isn’t getting any bigger this season.
The Bulls compensate against most teams, and particularly against Trae Young, by employing an outstanding perimeter defense and luckily making enough threes to keep those defense-first players playable. But without Young there was less for Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu to impact defensively, and offensively they went a combined 0-3 from the field in 35 combined minutes.
This was a loss that almost totally crushes the play-in PatBev Bulls dreams of getting to the number 8 seed in the play-in tournament. #7 was never attainable, but #8 would mean a chance at winning that first game and playing the Celtics in round one, a team that does not have a lot of size. Going in with the more-likely #10 spot means even a best case scenario has them facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. And that is a team way too big.
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