It’s typically an uphill battle when the other team plays faster, stronger, cleaner, and flat out wants it more. That was the case tonight, as the Bulls lost 120-105 in Atlanta, ending their six game winning streak. The Hawks came out in front of their home crowd and took it to the Bulls, playing with incredible energy on both ends, demonstrating a willingness to share the ball to find the open man on offense, and not making anything easy for the Bulls on defense.
- The story of the game goes like this: The Bulls let themselves get down by as many as 19 in the first half due to turnovers (21), sloppy play, losing the 50/50 balls, and poor shooting: just 7/20 in the first quarter compared to the Hawks’ 12/23, 10 of those 12 in the paint or beyond the arc (see shotcharts below). The Bulls made a run when Atlanta took their foot off the gas, cutting it to as few as three points in the third quarter, and six at the end of the period. But Atlanta seemed to say enough is enough, and they came out in the fourth just as they did in the first half, with fluid motion offense, stout defense, and an overall determination to disrupt the Bulls as much as possible.
- Derrick Rose continued to be aggressive, but again played 35 minutes, his third straight game with nearly this many; and as Jake Weiner wrote here at (D)Roses and Thorns on Friday after the Celtics game:
“…a little too much [playing time] after coming off a soft tissue injury (hamstring) in my opinion. Muscle tweaks are the easiest to reinjure and can lead to a domino effect of injuries that only get more serious. It’s a little weird that Hoiberg has pushed Rose since returning…. A bit Thibs-ian, and something to continue monitoring.”
- Rose did not attempt a three pointer, trending in the right direction after shooting four in his first game back from injury, then just one against the Celtics a couple days ago (converting none of them).
- Game notes: No Bulls player that played outside garbage time had a positive +/-; the Bulls only had 16 assists on 36 made baskets; Nikola Mirotic posted a double double with 24 points and 10 rebounds, going 5/9 from deep; Jimmy Butler had 27 points and eight boards.
- Silver lining: The Bulls frequently made it to the line, making 26 out of their 31 attempts compared to Atlanta’s 12/15. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler combined for 17/20 of those, and probably could have been called for several more, despite the large discrepancy between the Bulls and Hawks free throw attempts that will have most Hawks fans pointing to a lack of calls going their way.
- Looking ahead: Joakim Noah might return to play against the Wizards on Monday, though the team has done well without him, in part because of his complete lack of offense.
- Al Horford was an absolute beast, posting 33 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. Pau Gasol had no answer for him, in what was an off game for the previously scorching-hot center.
- The Atlanta win was reminiscent of last year’s impressive team with 33 assists on 49 FGs – the first such performance since they played the Oklahoma City Thunder in late November. They’ll hope to build off of this to look more like the dominant and selfless Hawks of 2014-15, moving to 23-15 and tied for third in the East.
- Coming up: the Bulls host John Wall and the Wizards on Monday night.