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Hardship Hawks can’t compete with Bulls, lose 131-117

Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls matched up in the Windy City for the second half of a home and away doubleheader. The big story was a Hawks roster that had been recently handicapped by injuries and the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols.

Atlanta only had four players available that began the season on the 17-man roster, including Skylar Mays who is on a two-way contract. Trae Young, Cam Reddish, and Clint Capela would be the only members of the full 15-man roster available for selection tonight with a slew of Hawks out in NBA health and safety protocols.

10-day contract player Chaundee Brown started at the power forward position for the second game in a row, and he didn’t disappoint early on.

It was an up and down affair early on, with teams trading buckets in rapid succession. DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls picked up where they left off Monday night, hitting 16-of-22 (73%) shots from the field in the first period. Recent 10-day hardship signing Malcolm Hill came into the game and dropped in a pair of triples from the corner. Young led the team with nine points and six assists while playing all 12 first quarter minutes including this field goal.

The teams would combine for 74 first quarter points but just a two-point deficit for the thin Hawks. But in the second quarter, the Bulls would continue to get to the rim on offense and stretched the lead to 8, forcing a timeout from head coach Nate McMillan.

The Hawks remained reliant on the three point shot to keep them in the game, hitting half of their first 12 through halfway into the second quarter. This Young bomb was indicative of their mindset early on.

But the Bulls continued to attack the pieced together Hawks transition defense with layup after layup after Hawks misses. A 16-0 run by the Bulls by the end of the first half pushed this contest into laugher territory before the halftime buzzer had even sounded. By the time it did, the scoreboard read 74-53 Chicago over Atlanta.

The biggest culprits for the deficit were Chicago’s 24 fast break points, along with 24 of their 30 first half buckets assisted, a whopping 80%. There was a lit runaway to Atlanta’s basket with a hastily stitched together roster trying to learn coordinated transition defense on the fly.

Atlanta didn’t have much of a response in the third quarter either. A quick 10-4 scoring run from the Bulls forced yet another timeout from coach McMillan. Chicago would continue to pour it on the visitors, with the Hawks down by as many as 27 at one point in the third quarter. But Atlanta kept fighting, putting together a 12-4 run of their own late in that period. That quarter even included this nifty spin cycle from Capela.

Going into the fourth quarter down 104-87, the Hawks had a long-shot chance to make things close down the stretch. But Atlanta failed to get stops as was the theme all game long and the Bulls pushed the lead back to 25 after a breakaway 360 degree dunk by Zach LaVine. That signaled the white flag with just under seven minutes left in the contest, and the starters were pulled for the rest of the night.

Young led the team with 26 points and 11 assists, and those points added to an ongoing scoring streak.

Capela also notched yet another double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Hill and Cam Oliver also each added 13 points off the bench. But Atlanta ceded 131 points to an admittedly strong Bulls team, who put up 61.4% shooting from the field and 45.5% from three. Chicago was able to share the ball and find their way to the rim early and often, and Atlanta never really had a chance by late in the second quarter.

Atlanta plays next in Cleveland on Friday, New Years Eve hoping that more players will clear the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols in the meantime.