Bulls Defensive Woes Continue In Loss To Hawks

Bulls Defensive Woes Continue In Loss To Hawks
Doug McDermott is guarded by Hawks guard Kyle Korver during the first half in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Nati Harnik / AP)

Inconsistent defensive effort has plagued the Chicago Bulls since the 2014-15 season, and it continues to rear its head several years later.

Despite Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade combining for 64 points on 23-for-41 shooting, the Bulls had no viable plan in preventing points, allowing the Atlanta Hawks to run away with a 115-107 win.

As they’ve done in all their losses this season, the Bulls would give up 30 or more points in the opening quarter, trailing the Hawks 35-27 after the first. Though they would rally in the second half, closing the gap to 103-101 with under 5 minutes to play in the fourth, the Bulls couldn’t stop the Hawks from going on scoring runs that allowed the lead to periodically balloon.

Having trouble staying in front of Dennis Schröder in pick-and-roll sets and keeping Dwight Howard off the offensive glass, the clinical Hawks were too much to handle for a Bulls defense which had trouble giving anything more than half-hearted attempts.

As bad as the defensive effort was, the Bulls’ inability to secure a rebound on either end of the floor also contributed to the loss. Dominating the rebounding battle in their previous seven games, the Bulls received a taste of their own bruising medicine, being comprehensively beaten 48-30 on the glass. Having entered the game ranking fifth in defensive rebounding percentage, the Bulls couldn’t keep the tenacious Hawks off the offensive glass, allowing 13 offensive rebounds and 20 second chance points.

Chicago also received little help from their bench unit, who were outscored 54-18 by the Hawks reserves. Former Bull Thabo Sefolosha torched his old team, scoring 20 points on nine shots, with the majority of his baskets coming in the Hawks’ first quarter surge.

It also must be said that coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t have his best night, either. For whatever reason, after four successive games backing up Robin Lopez, it’s clear that Bobby Portis has now supplanted Cristiano Felicio as the team’s backup center. In itself, this decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense given Portis remains a poor defender who offers little rim protection, while Felicio has shown flashes as a competent defensive big.

Pairing Portis with Nikola Mirotic, who failed to register a field goal in his 11 minutes of play, also guarantees that the Bulls’ second unit defense will struggle to contain opposing offenses. More importantly, Hoiberg has played Portis in crucial stretches in the fourth period, as he did against the Hawks.

In a Thibsian fashion, Hoiberg also relied heavily on his starting unit. All five starters played 30 minutes or more, which may prove costly given the Bulls are on traveling on a back-to-back.

Hitting the road once more, the Bulls will be looking to bounce back against the Miami Heat tonight at the American Airlines Arena. While a win is important to ensure the Bulls do not fall below a .500 record, it also marks the first time Dwyane Wade has played in the Heat arena as a rival player.



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  • I also noticed Portia in the 4th but not for anything positive. Last year I was happily surprised how many jumpers he made, this year not so much. He and Rondo seemed to both miss a lot of 4th quarter shots that allowed the lead to get away from them. Speaking of Rondo, I understand that he is having a shooting slump, even for a bad shooter, but it seems like the games we saw early are not what we are seeing now. I fully expected him to hit double digit assists most nights but that has not been the case lately. Also I don't see him taking it to the hole as much which I'd prefer over any of him shooting from any distance. Hope the team gels at some point but not expecting this season to be as good as I first hoped. Missing MCW.

  • Mark and co, nice job getting up posts for each game. Keep it going!

    I'm surprised the Bulls' defense hasn't been worse as I figured they'd struggle all year. They're never going to be a great defense so they really have to win the board battle, which they lost last night.

    So far this team is about .500, which is probably where they'll be all year.

  • 1) Rondo's inability to shoot is killing this team.
    2) I agree playing Portis ahead of Felicio is baffling.
    3) Mirotic is Eurocrap (recurring theme).
    4) Outside of McDermott's occasional offense, the bench is pretty bad.

    Time to package some guys for some new talent. This mix is not going to work.

  • Oh, and I wanted to say the Fred Hoiberg is awful. Doesn't know how to coach defense and seems to be a doormat to his players.

  • Bulls playing Portis ahead of Felicio could mean that they are showcasing him and Mitotic for the possibility of a trade. McBuckets is essentially what the team needs as a backup small forward. But if we add Grant to this mix the three players salary combined adds up to more than 9M. If we include McDermott that adds up to 13M. So many teams need a backup point guard and added with 3 potential marqee players Chicago could acquire another starting positional player. At least 4 teams general managers could want to rebuild with experienced players rather than relying upon next year's draft.

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