Observations: Williams steps up, but Hawks soar past Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bulls fell 108-97 to the Atlanta Hawks on the road Saturday night, their fourth loss in five games.
Here are 10 observations:
1. After warming up and feeling unable to play, Nikola Vučević was a late scratch with right adductor tightness. That's his first absence since joining the Bulls, leading to Thad Young's insertion into the regular, Zach LaVine-less starting unit of Coby White, Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams and Daniel Theis.
2. To the merriment of observers aplenty, Williams got off to an aggressive start with the Bulls lacking in the playmaking department. His six first-quarter points came by way of a cool, step-in 3-pointer and an and-one dunk off a strong drive on Kevin Huerter.
The second quarter saw a back cut produce an open dunk, another and-one finish over Danilo Gallinari and a broken-play 3 on a possession generated by a White steal. In less than two quarters, Williams broke into double-figures in the scoring column for the first time since April 17 and took more shots (eight) than he had in a game since April 16. With 15 points, he led the Bulls in scoring at the half, crossing that threshold for the first time since March 31. Williams cooled down in the second half, finishing with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting, 2-for-2 from distance, but it was an encouraging performance, nonetheless.
3. The Bulls hung with the Hawks throughout the first quarter, breaking from a trend of slow starts. After one, they trailed 31-26, but were shooting 50 percent from the field. Entering play, they'd failed to reach 21 points in five of their last six first quarters.
4. Then, they jumped in front for the majority of the second, building a 52-44 lead at the 4:04 mark after a 26-13 start to the quarter. The Hawks punched back behind a scoring spurt by Bogdan Bogdanović, but the Bulls held firm to lead 63-54 at the break.
5. Integral to that score was a 22-11 advantage in bench points. Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono and Denzel Valentine all canned triples, and Tomáš Satoranský added eight points to lead the attack. The Bulls' reserves finished with a 34-24 win in that category.
6. But it wasn't built to last. The Hawks opened the third quarter on a 13-2 run in a span of 2 minutes, 45 seconds that put them ahead 67-65 and prompted an early Billy Donovan timeout. That lead expanded to 71-65 shortly thereafter, and Atlanta went on to win the period 28-12 -- tying a Bulls season-low for points in a quarter -- to lead 82-75 entering the fourth. The keys: Hot 3-point shooting, Clint Capela's interior presence (11 points, five rebounds) and a bit of offensive stagnancy on the part of the Bulls, who shot 6-for-22 in the period and ended the game 6-for-24 from 3-point range. From there, the hosts steadily pulled away.
7. With a more athletic starting frontcourt in Young and Theis, the Bulls more often played their bigs higher in pick-and-roll coverage as opposed to a drop-heavy attack during these teams' last meeting on April 9. Trae Young (nine assists) Clint Capela (22 points) feasted that game on lob connections galore, but early on that specific action was slightly more tempered this time around.
8. But even in the face of varied defensive looks, including late-game double-teams, Trae got his. He took eight free throws in the first quarter alone, making them all and finishing 11-for-12 from the line (while notably goading White into foul trouble). Overall, Young posted 33 points on 14 field-goal attempts and added seven assists -- a typical performance equal parts efficient and artistic. With 42 and 37 points in these teams' first two matchups of the season, it's safe to say he has the Bulls' number. And Capela, despite first-half foul trouble, swung the game in the third quarter, finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
9. Thrust into the starting lineup after nine straight off the pine, Thad Young added another notch to his stellar season. Twenty points are the headline (his third 20-spot of the season), but he also found slews of open cutters to the tune of nine assists and pulled down seven rebounds, helping the Bulls build an early advantage in the second-chance points department.
10. For a time, this was an impressive effort. The Bulls outplayed a good Hawks team for long stretches -- sans two All-Stars -- and despite that unsightly third quarter, hung within striking distance until late. Still, it goes down as another defeat, and continues a theme of inconsistent play inside a 48-minute frame. The second half, which the Bulls ultimately lost 54-34, looms as a massive missed opportunity, especially with the Wizards visiting the Mavericks and the Raptors visiting the Jazz Saturday night.
Standings update: TBD. Both the aforementioned games are in progress as of this writing.
Next up: Back home for the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.