The Chicago Bulls traveled to Atlanta for a Sunday evening matchup with the Hawks. The second game of a back-to-back for the Bulls, this contest came right after Chicago blew out the Dallas Mavericks at home to the tune of a 144-115 win. Still, this game added to the Bulls' league-leading 37 games played back-to-back over the past couple of seasons.
In this one, overtime added to the minutes on Chicago's collective legs, Ayo Dosunmu suffered an injury, and, even with the Hawks having some inexplicable fouls at the end of regulation and overtime to keep the Bulls in it, Chicago managed to lose a heartbreaker.
The Bulls have been consistently below average all season. They entered this game 11-14, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference. It's better than they had been, too. Sunday's match with the Hawks came after two straight wins for the Bulls. Atlanta held a 13-13 record and occupied seventh place in the East entering Sunday. Suffice it to say, neither one of these teams has been living up to expectations.
Things started out pretty well for the Bulls. Fresh off of scoring over 140 points against Dallas, Chicago had 27 in the first frame. Nikola Vucevic had eight in the quarter, and it seemed like the Bulls were ready to continue their freshly figured-out offense. Coby White's buzzer-beating three seemed to accentuate it.
In the second quarter, the Hawks did their best impression of the Bulls team that played on Saturday. They poured in 36 points as the Bulls played their all-too-familiar version of defense. You know—the one where they don't play any defense? It was a bold strategy. It managed to not work out again. Can you believe it?
Things got interesting again in the third quarter. The Bulls clamped down a little bit on defense and managed to at least get to a point where they were trading blows with the Hawks. In fact, Atlanta almost went the last four minutes of the quarter without a field goal before a last-second dunk. Granted, the Hawks still got their points because Derrick Jones Jr. was having a good old time fouling everybody out there, and Atlanta entered the bonus pretty quickly. The Bulls still came out on top for the quarter 28-27.
The fourth quarter kept things exciting. DeMar DeRozan started feeling it, and Andre Drummond decided he was going to continue being a beast under the basket.
Then, with 4:29 left in the fourth, DeRozan finally knotted things up again at 100 apiece. I mean, the Bulls proceeded to give up a wide-open three that put Atlanta back up by three, but—you know—whatever. Zach LaVine tied it again with a three-point play on the next possession, and DeRozan put the Bulls on top after that with two foul shots.
For a little bit after that, there was nothing going on in terms of momentum one way or the other. A Derrick Jones Jr. thunderous dunk off of an alley-oop changed that, but Trae Young then nailed a long three to put the Hawks back up 110-107 with 50 seconds left in the game.
DeRozan had a chance to put the Bulls on top in the closing seconds, but he blew a layup anticipating contact from the defender. It seemed over, but Coby White managed to knock the ball out of a Hawks' player's hands to give the Bulls possession with 8.7 seconds left and down by one. The refs initially called it a foul on White, but Billy Donovan successfully challenged the call.
I don't know how to describe what happened next other than "chaos." DeRozan pulled up for a jumper but it rimmed out to the right side of the basket. Jones Jr. rose up from under the hoop to snag the rebound and throw up a wild, last-chance attempt. He missed but was fouled and had a chance to win it for the Bulls at the free-throw line. However, because of course, he made one of two to send the game to overtime.
DeRozan got the scoring started in overtime, but the Hawks responded quickly with a dunk, a three, and a circus shot to go up 117-112. LaVine decided to throw down two driving dunks in response to bring things within one point. However, the theme of most of the night continued to play out. Any time the Bulls started to get a little momentum, the Hawks calmly responded with their own.
Even after White sunk a clutch three in the closing seconds, Trae Young—who had been shooting poorly all night—just walked down the court and hit a wide-open, step-back jumper in White's face. Then, keeping up with the other theme of the game, more chaos happened.
DeRozan collected the inbounds pass with literally one second left and heaved up a prayer of a three. He missed, but Bogdan Bogdanovic inexplicably fouled him on the shot. DeRozan hit all three free throws with half of a second remaining. It seemed like the Bulls had pulled out a victory from nothing... then the Hawks threw up an inbounds pass to the rim, tipped it in, and won 123-122. Brutal.
Point Guard Problems
We already know the big injury at point guard for the Bulls—Lonzo Ball still hasn't played this season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. On Saturday, the Bulls lost Alex Caruso to a tailbone contusion, so he was out Sunday. Then, Ayo Dosunmu went down hard in this one. His status moving forward is unknown.
Goran Dragic is the only true point guard left on a roster that thrives when racking up assists. Hopefully, Caruso and Dosunmu will return very soon and nothing serious happened there.
DeMar DeRozan played 45 minutes in this game. He scored 34 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and dished out eight assists. DeRozan also shot 15 free throws, making 14 of them. The rest of the team took eight free throws combined. The pattern of having a game plan be "give it to DeMar and get out of the way" is not a sustainable one. Even with recent injuries to Caruso and Dosunmu, the Bulls have no excuses for not executing wins when DeRozan has a near triple-double.
What's On Tap Next?
The Chicago Bulls have a couple of days off before their next game. They will host the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 6:30 PM CT.
The Knicks are having a very Knicks-like season. They're 14-13, with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle each having fine seasons and RJ Barrett being a black hole. Let's see what the Bulls can do fresh off of a tough loss.
Tune in to the Bulls On Tap podcast for postgame reaction and further Bulls commentary all season.