Zach LaVine’s 50-point game not enough for Chicago Bulls

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls lost to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, ending their three-game winning streak, 120-108.

Have you ever seen a player upset with scoring 50 points in a game? That was Zach LaVine after the Bulls lost by 12 points to the Hawks. LaVine shot 18/31 from the field, 7/12 from downtown, and 7/8 from the free-throw line.

  1. The Bulls seem to have a finalized starting lineup for the time being with LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Tomas Satoransky, Thad Young, and Patrick Williams. This is their fifth straight game going with this lineup.
  2. The bench rotation continues to shrink, with just Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Troy Brown Jr., and Daniel Theis coming off the bench for the Bulls. They combined for 25 points tonight, backpacking on LaVine’s night for the books.
  3. The Hawks were without Deandre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and their star center, John Collins, tonight in the game. Garrett Temple remains out with a hamstring injury for the Bulls.
  4. The changes on offense throughout the game were disappointing. The first half offense saw a lot of post-ups between Vucevic and Young. They were able to dish out five assists between them and work off-ball cutters to the basket.
  5. In the second half, once the Hawks made their comeback, the Bulls did a lot of standing around. This came to bite them when the Hawks started to double/triple team LaVine.
  6. Satoransky and White were kryptonite from behind the arc for the Bulls. They combined for a shooting performance of 1/8 from downtown. Each of them saw plenty of open looks and failed to convert them —  a deadly combination for LaVine’s night of double-teams.
  7. Vucevic helped out LaVine as best as he could in the starting lineup. He scored 25 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 11/19 from the field. The Bulls missed him on open shots plenty of times tonight; they found him frequently in the post, but hardly from mid-range, where he is deadly.
  8. On a positive offensive note, the Bulls were able to get into the bonus with 9:28 left in the second quarter. They shot 14 free throws on the night, an area that has seen improvement as of recent.
  9. Trae Young was a problem. He put up 42 points that were overshadowed by LaVine’s 39-point first half. White, Satoransky, and LaVine constantly struggled to guard him as he was able to shoot 14 free throws on the night. Check #10 for my “how to guard Trae Young handbook.”
  10. How to guard Trae Young handbook. First, the Bulls cannot use drop-coverage on pick-and-roll situations with him. He is the master of the floater/runner. Second, the Bulls need to do a better job with on-ball defense and fighting over screens. Lastly, DO NOT run behind him — his special move is the stop-and-pop, or in his case, the stop-and-jump-backward-into-you.
  11. Piggybacking off of #9, the Bulls failed to defend the Hawks’ pick-and-roll & alley-oop offense. Young and Capela ran the paint all night against the Bulls. The weak side defender failed to play the “free safety” role — much of the night this was LaVine’s role.
  12. The Hawks found plenty of offensive matchups to take advantage of throughout the game. This part of the defense cost the Bulls a lot of baskets. Much of the night, Young was able to switch onto Vucevic and work one-on-one with him. This is a major adjustment the Bulls need to make going forward. Their laid-back pick-and-roll defense is a major cause.
  13. Danilo Gallinari was another problem coming off the bench. He hit some major shots down the stretch that were fatal to the Bulls. He scored 20 points, shooting 4/8 from downtown.
  14. Clint Capela dominated his matchup against Vuceivc. Capela shot 10/12 from the field and scored 22 points on the night. This is an area that Vucevic needs to work on, as he is the biggest able-defender the Bulls have in the paint.
  15. The Bulls were dominated in the paint. The Hawks won the paint battle 66-46, a rarity for the Bulls to lose. The Bulls were too shot-heavy from downtown, shooting 33 threes and making 13 of them. That equates to just under 40 percent, but it’s not the Bulls’ game.

Let’s end this with a positive note on LaVine’s tremendous performance. He scored 39 points in the first half, which is the most by any player in the NBA this season. There was a stretch in the second quarter where LaVine scored 25 straight points for the Bulls. He is the first Bulls player since Jimmy Butler in 2017 to score 50 points in a game.

Next. Chicago Bulls: Lauri Markkanen and Coby White are key to success. dark

The Bulls have plenty of defensive and offensive adjustments to make before they play the worst record in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Sunday night in Minnesota.