The excitement surrounding the Bulls season opener faded quickly for Bulls fans. In the season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bull’s defense was almost non-existent. They started by letting the Hawks take a 42-29 lead in the first quarter. It only spiraled out of control from there. The Bulls defense gave up a staggering 83 points in the first half and allowed Hawks PG Trae Young to take over, going 10-12 and scoring 37 points. This game just didn’t look good for the Bulls.
Not our night. pic.twitter.com/OnvIHOmBzl
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 24, 2020
This was a tough one to watch for Bulls fans. The defense was awful and it gave flashbacks to the Bulls from last year. They didn’t look like they could stop anything. Beyond that, there were quite a few players who looked bad. Let’s break down all of the issues we saw tonight.
Pick and Roll Defense
The biggest issue for the Bulls in this one was their pick and roll defense. Typically you can pick a handful of plays and go over what happened to make them fail. For the Bulls tonight it was a far too common occurrence that they messed up on their pick and roll defense.
A lot has gone wrong but the Bulls tonight, but if you can't guard PNR and stay connected on the ball-handler after screens, you have no chance.
Plays like this haven't been an isolated occurrence, but a constant so far.
There's nothing Carter can do if the POA is this bad. pic.twitter.com/IOWNmaj9NG
— Mark (@mkhoops) December 24, 2020
The Hawks were simply having their way with this team. They knew exactly how to attack the Bulls and amplify their defensive issues. It wasn’t just specific players consistently causing defensive issues it was everyone. The team didn’t look like they knew what to do on the defensive front and the Hawks exploited that.
This is something that head coach Billy Donovan is going to need to work on and get fixed quickly. Teams will blueprint off of this if the Bulls can’t make a change to improve their defense. While this was still just one game it was a very bad defensive showing for the Bulls.
The Bulls struggled on the offensive side of the ball for the most part. Only four Bulls players scored in double digits tonight. As a team, they shot 41.4% from the floor and 22.9% from three-point range. The offense just didn’t look like it was working tonight. Point guard Coby White shot 18.2% from the floor and was 1-7 from three-point range. Center Wendell Carter Jr only shot the ball five times and went 2-5 for 6 points. Carter Jr. continued shooting threes and went 0-2 tonight.
Carter now 1-18 from 3 counting preseason
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 24, 2020
While the starters didn’t exactly do great tonight shooting the ball the bench struggled mightly. The bench shot 37.5% from the floor and 11.1% from three-point range. The starters weren’t getting it done and the bench continued with those shooting struggles. The Bulls are working through a new offensive scheme this year and will take time to work itself out. Tonight the shots weren’t falling. While this can’t be excused it’s imporant to remember that this is a new offense. Also, there will be many nights when the shots do fall, tonight wasn’t that night. The final score made this game look a lot closer than it was. The Bulls were down 40 points at one point, they made it look closer in garbage time.
One of the big killers tonight was the turnovers. The Bulls couldn’t hold onto the ball and kept giving it back to the Hawks. They ended the game with 15 turnovers, 13 of which came from the starters.
Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen have combined for 8 of the Bulls' 9 turnovers so far. Need for passing/playmaking is glaring
— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) December 24, 2020
This team looked lost on the offensive end of the floor. In their defense, they are running a different offense than the previous year and it’s going to take some time to get used to it. The turnovers were inexcusable with the majority coming from the starting unit. With their defensive struggles, they need to do what they can to keep the ball. I can give them time to understand the offense but stupid turnovers are inexcusable.
The Bulls Were Flat Out Bad
If you look at the performance as a whole the team was just bad. They were outrebounded, outplayed, and outmatched. This is the first game of the season so you can really only go up from here. Billy Donovan has his work cut out for him after this performance. Fans everywhere waited nine months to see the Bulls play a meaningful basketball game and this is the performance they came out with. It was flat out embarrassing. Donovan seemed to be pretty upset in the game as he ended up getting himself a technical foul.
Billy Donovan draws a T
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 24, 2020
It’s good to at least see the head coach being fired up even in a massive blow out. Hopefully, this means there will be A LOT of adjustments to come. This was an all around bad showing for the Bulls. Their schedule coming up is going to be tough. They need to implement some changes to improve their defensive strategy ASAP. Shots will fall, this was just a bad game for them shooting wise. The defense is the biggest concern. We will get our next look at the Bulls Saturday when they play the Indiana Pacers.