The Atlanta Hawks were unable to bounce-back from their Saturday night loss against the Hornets, falling short against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the United Center, 111-100.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 21 points and 13 assists, while Dejounte Murray added 20 points as six Hawks scored in double-digits. For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 26 points, with Zach LaVine adding 20 points.
The Hawks were dealt two late blows prior to the start of this game, with Onyeka Okongwu ruled out with left hamstring tightness before De’Andre Hunter was ruled out with acute asthma symptoms, which Hawks head coach Nate McMillan saying the Chicago doctors looked at him prior to being ruled out. Bogdan Bogdanovic started in Hunter’s place but a big blow for the Hawks defensively before the game had even begun with both the absence of Hunter and Okongwu.
However, defense was not the primary issue in this game, especially in the first quarter as both teams struggled out of the gate offensively. Both teams made their run in the second and third quarters and despite the Bulls taking an 11 point lead early in the third, the Hawks outscored the Bulls 30-21 and tied the game heading into the fourth quarter.
The previous two meetings between these sides have come down to the buzzer, and with the game being tied heading into the final frame you’d be forgiven for thinking that this game would follow the same trend. The Bulls, however, had other ideas and when they initially took their lead to eight the Hawks responded by cutting that to three, but the Bulls had another run left in them, a run the Hawks would not recover from.
So, let’s take a look at it.
When these two last played each other, it was both LaVine and DeRozan who hit jumpshot after jumpshot down the stretch and, again, those two were instrumental and were both firing.
Just after Clint Capela had cut the lead to three points, the Bulls make an immediate reply as LaVine hits AJ Griffin with the step-back three:
A good contest from Griffin here, who had some ground to make up but the shot from LaVine was simply better.
Turnovers crippled the Hawks in the first half especially and in the fourth quarter it reared its head through a behind-the-back pass to Collins from Young that goes wrong and LaVine intercepts, taking the ball to the rim in transition where he is fouled by Murray, leading to free throws where he dispatches the pair to push the Bulls’ lead to eight:
The Hawks’ attempts to respond fall short on the next possession, this time it’s Murray who uses the Capela screen but can’t hit the long jumper:
A good contest from Alex Caruso here too to make things a bit more difficult for Murray.
The Bulls move the ball well on their next possession after the pick-and-roll, the ball ending back up in the hands of DeRozan who takes and makes the three-pointer to cap an 8-0 run for the Bulls to put them back up by 11 points:
A tough possession for the Hawks there with John Collins and Capela defending the pick-and-roll action there, the roll from Vucevic forcing the smaller defense behind to collapse somewhat and the Bulls move it well after that to get it back to DeRozan. Collins gets a decent contest in but it’s not enough to prevent the basket.
Again, when it came down to it, the Bulls’ duo hit their shots when it mattered the most.
The Hawks did respond with a big Collins three but they wouldn’t bring the gap below five points the remainder of the way, the night I thought summed up well in this sequence where Young misses a wide-open three that would have cut the lead to five before LaVine takes the ball in transition and scores to push the lead to 10 and end any hope the Hawks had of stealing one on the road:
It marks the end of the Hawks’ four game road winning streak on a night where they just didn’t look on it at times, perhaps understandable given that this was their third game in four nights, while this was the Bulls’ first game since their NBA Paris game last Thursday.
Postgame, Hawks head coach Nate McMillan was unhappy with the Hawks’ valuation of the ball and bemoaned how the Hawks played in traffic last night in multiple facets, committing 19 turnovers (18, plus one team turnover) on the game for 25 Chicago points.
“The whole game...you got to take care of the basketball,” said McMillan. “We talked about that — we had 18 turnovers in our last game, 19 tonight for 25 points. We’ve got to do a better job of putting a value on that basketball. Every possession you’ve got to have a value to it and we don’t have a value to that ball right now. Playing in traffic, shooting in traffic, dribbling in traffic. Whenever there’s two on the ball, you’ve got to get off the ball. 19 turnovers, we know we’re better than that.”
“I think it was a little bit of both,” added McMillan when asked if it was the Hawks playing too fast or Chicago’s pressure. “It was a little bit of their pressure but it was us passing in traffic, dribbling in traffic, trying to play with two, three guys sometimes. We say whenever you get two on the ball your job is done, get the ball out. Make sure you have the proper spacing be aggressive against teams that are trapping, that play with a tight paint as Chicago does.”
These turnovers came primarily in the first half, 13 of the Hawks’ 18 player-turnovers coming in the first half, often leading directly to Chicago points.
Just a few examples...
On the rebound, Clint Capela brings the ball down to his left, where Patrick Williams picks him off and dunks for an easy basket:
This next play is to do with the Bulls more so as Alex Caruso’s tendencies shine through defensively as he picks off the pass from Frank Kaminsky and dunks on the other end:
Next, Nikola Vucevic pokes the ball away from Capela on the offensive drive and the Bulls put pressure on the Hawks in transition, the ball ending up with Ayo Dosunmu who gets an easy enough floater inside:
Next, Collins’ lob to Capela is deflected and results in a live-ball turnover, off of which the Bulls push in transition with Dosunmu finding the streaking Andre Drummond for the emphatic finish at the rim:
These next turnovers didn’t always lead to points but support some of McMillan’s postgame comments when it comes to how the Hawks don’t value the ball and lost it in traffic.
You can see Young draw the crowd and his attempt to pass out of it is careless and it results in a turnover:
Here, the entry pass from Murray to Collins slips out of his hands — a careless turnover — and the Bulls come away with possession:
In the pick-and-roll with Capela, Young’s pass drops behind Capela and trickles out of bounds for another turnover:
This time it’s Bogdan Bogdanovic who gets caught in a crowd and the reach from behind results in another turnover for the visitors:
In the second half, again, Young gets caught in traffic and his pass only finds a member of the opposition for another turnover:
One of six turnovers on the game for Young, who was quiet for his standards — 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three. While 21 points was a team-high, it was one of those were it certainly didn’t feel like it was a team high, particularly given how Dejounte Murray played through the first three quarters. The Bulls did well to limit Young’s involvement scoring-wise and clearly frustrated him, a few ill-advised attempts from Young at the rim suggesting some frustration on the game.
Dejounte Murray had it going in this game, 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field. Every time Murray hit a shot last night it felt like it was a needed basket, an important basket. Murray had been 9-of-15 from the field through three quarters but shot 0-of-4 in the fourth to bring his percentages down a tad. Clint Capela also enjoyed a solid game with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes, his first game now without a minutes restriction.
John Collins and AJ Griffin played OK — Collins’ five first half turnovers an obvious blot on his copybook but somehow managed to end up plus-2 on the game in his 35 minutes while Murray ended up minus+21 in his 36 minutes (always a weird one plus/minus). Griffin came in and played more minutes this time in Hunter’s absence with 30, hitting three threes as well as seeing some action in the fourth quarter down the stretch
Outside of that, there wasn’t a lot else for the Hawks. Their bench was average at best (Aaron Holiday was OK to be fair) and Bogdan Bogdanovic shot 4-of-12 from the field last night starting in the place of Hunter, who was a big miss in this spot on both ends of the floor but especially defensively with the DeRozan/LaVine combo.
‘’They got two really good weapons (DeRozan and LaVine) over there and it is hard to guard a lot of guys in this league 1-on-1,” said Trae Young via the AP. “So you have to use multiple guys and when you’re missing probably your best defender, it’s hard.”
‘’You are going to have to send doubles, you’re going to have to do different types of schemes you (wouldn’t) have if you had him out there,” Young added. “It’s obviously not an excuse why we lost, but I definitely think that’s tough when you have two high horses over there.’’
Other than the turnovers, it’s hard to fault the Hawks a ton here in this spot. They played fairly well given the circumstances after that first quarter, their second half was actually decent, and they shot the ball well from the field (46%). Missing Hunter and Okongwu, two of the Hawks’ better defenders, was always going to make this one a little difficult, and given that this was the Hawks’ third game in four days too, there are certainly worse losses the Hawks have suffered this season.
The Hawks (24-24) are back in action on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-24) on the road.
Should be a fun contest, it usually is against the Thunder.
Until next time...