The Bulls opened the 2020-21 regular season by hosting the Atlanta Hawks, and were drubbed 124-104 to start the NBA Season.
Trae Young: 26 min | 37 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds | 10-for-12 FG, 5-for-6 3P, 12-for-14 FT
Bogdan Bogdanović: 25 min | 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal | 5-for-12 FG, 3-for-8 3P
Zach LaVine: 25 min | 22 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal | 9-for-19 FG, 1-for-8 3P
Lauri Markkanen: 30 min | 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists | 6-for-9 FG, 4-for-5 3P
Look, we knew the Bulls’ defense could take a step back after losing Kris Dunn and Shaq Harrison in free agency. We knew the Hawks added considerable offensive firepower in the offseason.
But this was a wholly disastrous performance on that end. The Hawks’ 42-point first-quarter output was the most against the Bulls in a season opener. Their 83 first-half points marked the fourth-most scored in a season opener for any team ever (hat tip Jeff Mangurten for those nuggets).
In that half, the Hawks got everything they wanted off the dribble and on the interior, shooting 65.9 percent from the floor and 16-for-19 (84.2 percent) in the paint. Trae Young, who Zach LaVine assumed early defensive responsibilities on (picking up four first-half fouls), notched 27 points and five 3s. In most every facet — getting back in transition, fighting over screens, rotating timely, cutting off drives — the Bulls lacked.
Then, it got worse. LaVine picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter’s opening moments. With four minutes left in that frame, the Hawks had climbed to 108 points and 68.5 percent shooting from the field. Young ended the night with 37 points, one of seven Hawks in double-figures. He toyed with the hosts.
124 points on the night. 50 in the paint, 29 off turnovers and 23 on the fastbreak. 40 percent shooting from deep. An all-encompassingly poor defensive showing.
Lauri Markkanen, who rode hot long-range shooting to 21 points (6-for-9 from the field, 4-for-5 from 3), nine rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes.
Still, they appeared often disjointed on the offensive side of the ball too. A need for crisp, responsible passing stood out. Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White, both of whom are expected to shoulder heavier playmaking responsibilities this season, combined for six turnovers — most of them unsightly — and 4-for-16 shooting. LaVine had five cough-ups too.
More connectedness across the board will be required moving forward. Their team-wide 41.4 percent field goal shooting (22.9 percent from 3) came on a night that Clint Capela and Kris Dunn were inactive.
This is a young team still adjusting to fresh coaching. But nights like Wednesday are a reminder that they’re a long way away from head coach Billy Donovan’s stated goal of consistency on both ends.