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Rough offensive performance sinks Hawks in lopsided loss to Bulls

It was rough from the opening minutes.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks entered Saturday’s home contest versus the Chicago Bulls with an opportunity to win a third straight game for the first time during the 2017-18 season. But one of the ugliest shooting performances in recent memory had the team playing from behind all night and they never really threatened down the stretch before the final minutes became garbage time in a 113-97 loss.

The Hawks attempted a franchise record 48 three pointers. Unfortunately, they connected on just 11 of those attempts. They had hit on just 4 of 32 three point attempts at the end of three quarters of play and, beyond that, 5 of their first 40 launches. Coach Budenholzer emptied the bench after a timeout with 4:52 remaining in the game, after which the reserve unit would proceed to connect on their first 4 attempts from the three point line and hit on 6 of 8 total attempts to drag the make rate for the game barely above the 20% threshold.

“We’ve really been emphasizing shooting more threes,” Budenholzer said. “We really want to make that a big part of our offense. I think we were 2 for 23 at half time. I think we made 5 or 6 when that last group came in… Luke Babbitt, Josh Magette, and Musky.. those guys made a few. If we make them it feels totally different.”

“I don’t remember us forcing any,” he added. “For the most part I thought they were good shots.”

The Hawks head coach acknowledged that his team was outplayed throughout the contest, however. “ A lot of credit to Chicago; they played really well”, he said. “They were the more aggressive team. They were more physical team, the more active team. They made shots. They played better than us in every facet of the game.”

Hawks starting point guard Dennis Schroder saw it much the same way as his head coach did. “Yes, we didn’t come out right,” he said. “We just have to start the game better and from there on, play the 48 minutes. We have to be physical and have more intensity.”

A team can’t force their shots to fall. But Schroder did not seem to take that as an excuse for losing the game. “The shot isn’t falling,” he said. “But you have to find another way to win the game. We didn’t do it tonight.”

The defensive game plan focused on limiting the Bulls rookie first round draft pick from producing points from beyond the three point line. Earlier this season, Lauri Markkanen became the fastest player in NBA history to make 100 three point fields, having hit that mark in his 41st career game. The record was previously held by Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard.

Markkanen missed all four of his three point attempts but found plenty of other ways to help contribute operating on the baseline and making other timely cuts without the ball offensively.

“We really wanted to take away the 3-point line from Markkanen,” said Budenholzer. “And I guess we won the battle and lost the war. It was a huge emphasis to get him to play inside the 3-point line. And Lopez I think he was operating with a lot of space because we were giving so much attention to Markkanen and Mirotic. So we got to coach better, play better, everything. They were just better than us in every way today.”

Markannen did not sound like a 20-year-old rookie in his remarks after the game. ““I just try to be a complete player,” he said. “That was their (defensive) game plan, but I can do much more than just shoot. I missed I don’t know how many three’s today, but that wasn’t going for me tonight, so I figured I’d do something else.”

“I know I can’t just shoot threes,” he added. “I’ve got to get to the rim. Eventually that’s going to open a lot more space for three-pointers so I try to mix it up.”

On this play, you can see how much the Hawks defense is overplaying the three point line and how Lopez and Markkanen punish the overplay with the back door lob for the dunk.

And again.

This play from early in the first quarter demonstrates that the Hawks were prepared to switch if needed to limit Markkanen from deep. But the Bulls were clearly ready to punish that strategy and create easy points at the rim.

The Hawks side of the game

Dewayne Dedmon was probably the Hawks most effective player in this game. Playing off of the bench again in this game he produce 11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in 23 minutes of action. He may have been able to contribute more were it not for the foul trouble he was dealing with (he had 5 fouls).

The Hawks players seemed frustrated with the officiating for a number of stretches of the game. Although it was clearly not the reason they lost this game it did seem to, at times, force Budenholzer to abandon lineups that seemed to be making some progress in reducing the scoring deficit. Tauren Prince was limited to 19 minutes of action with his 5 fouls one of which was especially suspect.

As is the norm, Schroder led the Hawks with 18 points on 7 of 17 shooting from the field. He also had 5 assists and 2 steals.

The Hawks bench did outscore the Bulls bench 52-45. But a lot of that Hawks scoring came during garbage time in the final 5 minutes of the game.

The Hawks entered the game 7th in the league in team 3 point shooting percentage. But that mark will certainly look different at the end of NBA action on Saturday night.

The following players missed on all of their three points attempts in this game:

  • Ersan Ilyasova: 0 for 7, he entered the game with 40.5% on 3PAs on the season.
  • Marco Belinelli: 0 for 5, he entered the game with 38.7% on 3PAs on the season.
  • Malcolm Delaney: 0 for 3, he entered the game with 35.4% on 3PAs on the season.
  • John Colins: 0 for 2, he entered the game 1 of 7 on 3PAs on the season.
  • Tyler Dorsey: 0 for 1, he entered the game with 37.5% on 3PAs on the season.

There were a few nice plays on the part of the Hawks.

This was a really nice pass from Schroder to Ilyasova to punish the attempted trap.

Belinelli and Dedmon connect here on the play for the easy score at the rim. But in the action you can see how much more physically the Bulls were playing than the Hawks.

The Hawks entered the game ranked second in forcing opponents turnovers and third in producing points off of opponents turnovers. You can see some of that on this play even as the Hawks are playing from behind in this game.

Next game: the Hawks will host the Utah Jazz on Monday evening in Philips Arena at 7:30 ET.