The Chicago Bulls opened the season with a disappointing 124-104 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday.
Wednesday’s loss also marked the first regular-season game in the Billy Donovan era. Despite the marked improvement shown over the Bulls 3-1 preseason, Atlanta looked like the more prepared team.
Here are Sports Mockery’s three takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
The defense is a work in progress
The performance defensively not only left a lot to be desired but was a significant step back from what was shown in four games during the preseason. In the first half alone the Bulls gave up 83 points to Atlanta.
Donovan stressed the importance of the Bulls helping one another on the defensive end of the floor but acknowledged that this game will be a learning experience.
“[Atlanta] shot it very well to their credit and I thought they played very so I don’t wanna take anything away from them,” said Donovan. “We did not help each other well enough defensively. It’s gonna be very very difficult when you give up two quarters at 40 and 41 points. That’s gonna be really difficult to overcome.”
“I thought that we got spread out,” said Donovan. “We’ve got to be a team that’s gotta be a real position oriented team because if we’re not in the right positions in terms of being able to get in and out in two way stunts, we really shouldn’t struggle to control the ball.”
LaVine struggled with Trae Young
As for Young, his scoring on the night came in all phases of the game. The Bulls couldn’t seem to keep themselves from fouling the third-year point guard. Young was 12 of 14 from the foul line against Chicago. Young dominated with a game-high 37 points.
“Trae Young generated a lot of fouls especially stopping behind screens, rip through moves, those kinds of things,” said Donovan. “That’s certainly a learning experience for some of our guys dealing with that.”
Early in the game, it fell on team leader Zach Lavine to handle the assignment of guarding Young. A decision that was decided by many on the team.
“It was a collective decision,” said Lavine. “I got in early foul trouble. [It] made me switch off him a little bit but you know obviously Trae’s a great player. We’re gonna be playing against a lot of tough guys and I wanna take that assignment.”
“I think I have the ability to do that. I’m gonna continue to do better at it but you know it’s a team game. We have to a better overall. Trae killed us. I feel like the whole team killed us the way I was looking at it. It just looked like we were taking the ball out of the basket.”
The frontcourt played well offensively
The Bulls struggled on the offensive end of the court against Atlanta. For the game, the team only managed to shoot 41.4 percent from the field including a 22.9 clip from 3. Ultimately, the offense was victim to the boomerang of habit.
Primary offensive players such as Zach Lavine and Coby White relied heavily on isolation and it came at the cost of creating any offensive flow. LaVine managed to score 22 points on 19 shots while White only managed to score nine on 2 of 11 shooting.
The lone bright spot on offense came from the Bulls’ frontcourt. Lauri Markkanen looked like the player that made the All-Rookie First team against Atlanta. His night ended with 21 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
The other frontcourt name that had an impact on offense was rookie Patrick Williams. Building off of his productive preseason, Williams followed up his performances with a season-opening stat line of 16 points, four rebounds, and a block.
“He’s extremely talented,” said LaVine You see flashes of it and you’re like ‘man this kid is gonna be really good.’” He brings an aggressiveness to the game. He’s extremely strong. He’s NBA-ready body wise. It’s something that we need and he’s just gonna keep getting better.”