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After building up an early 21-point lead in the first quarter, the Chicago Bulls found themselves floundering the rest of the way, and ultimately losing to the Brooklyn Nets 118-109 on Sunday night.
The Bulls are now 5-13 on the year, having lost seven of their last eight games.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
1. Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine both popped up on the injury report — Caruso dealing with a left ankle sprain he sustained Friday against the Raptors and LaVine with foot soreness dating back to the game against Miami on November 20.
Caruso was held out while LaVine played and scored 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting with six rebounds and four assists.
2. The Bulls got off to an electric start, making eight of their first 10 three-point attempts, including three from each of Patrick Williams and Coby White.
They started 7-0. Nets timeout. 22-3. 30-9.
Building up a 21-point lead, the Bulls ultimately won the first quarter 36-19.
3. The Nets started making everything in the second quarter. After going just 5-of-14 on threes in the first quarter, the Nets shot an incredible 11-of-16 on threes in the second quarter.
The Bulls have made 11 or fewer threes in a game 10 times this year. Out of 17 games.
The Nets scored 44 points in the second quarter, the most points the Bulls have allowed in a quarter all year.
The Nets made 25 threes, the most ever in a game against the Bulls. They took 53 threes. They had only 16 two-point makes with eight coming at the rim. One of the weirdest shot charts ever, but for a team that has a lot of great 3-and-D players and no stars, that’s probably the best way to live.
4. Zone in the second quarter started throwing off the Bulls rhythm. They had a point of attack defender working to get over screens while the rest of the defense pinched into the gaps to take away the middle and the paint.
Much of the Bulls offense is predicated on drive and kick. Getting into the paint, drawing help and making the right read. Without those driving avenues, they needed to shoot over the top, and that just didn’t go well for them. Never does.
After hitting 8-of-10 to start the game, they proceeded to go 4-of-22 for the rest of the game.
5. The Bulls usually switch everything one through four, but not five. They want to keep Nikola Vucevic out of situations where he is switched onto a guard on the perimeter.
With the Nets employing a stretch five, the Bulls moved away from their base defense to try to quell the hot shooting.
For a stretch during the third quarter, Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie drew Vucevic on a switch almost every time down the court. After being called for an offensive foul on a replay challenge, Dinwiddie started passing out of the advantage situation and putting the Nets in bad situations.
6. As soon as the Bulls shots stopped falling and their lead turned into a deficit, DeRozan took charge to try to keep the Bulls alive. As professional a scorer as he is, DeRozan mid-range jumpers aren’t going to get the Bulls back into games.
He finished with 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting. But the fact that the Bulls went away from the things that worked in the first quarter to the things that have proven over the last three seasons not to work, is concerning. They are unable to overcome adversity, a problem they have faced since the inception of this team
7. Patrick Williams was one of the four Bulls scoring at least 20 points. He put up a season-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 11 in the first quarter.
Williams numbers were boosted by the hot shooting. But he also had some nice drives.
His handles, though, are in serious need of work. He continues to mishandle the ball on rebounds, dribble it off his leg or get stripped on almost every drive.
8. Given that the Bulls lost the three-point battle by 39 points, they must win the four factors to keep themselves in games.
- The Nets won the effective field goal percentage 64.5 to 55.4
- The Bulls won the turnover percentage 12 to 12.1
- The Bulls win the offensive rebounding battle 29.5 to 20.9
- The Bulls won the free throw rate battle 20.5 to 13.3
Though it wasn’t enough to overcome the incredible three-point deficit, but it would have been a much bigger loss had they not kept themselves competitive in those four categories.
9. The Bulls now fall to 5-13 on the season.
Through 18 games, this is the Bulls worst start to a season since Fred Hoiberg was coach in 2018-19 Even the 22-win 2019-20 Bulls coached by Jim Boylen started better (6-12)
Their next nine games are at Boston, home vs. Bucks and Pelicans, at Milwaukee, vs. Nuggets, at Miami, at Miami, at 76ers, vs. Lakers.
Up Next: The Bulls finish out their road trip, and their In-Season Tournament games, on Tuesday against the number one team in the East, the Boston Celtics
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