Two similar scores. Two different games. Two losses.
This time, the coronavirus-ravaged Hawks couldn’t keep up with the Bulls for very long. The Hawks dropped a 131-117 decision in Chicago Wednesday. The defeat came two days after the Hawks lost at home to the same Bulls by a similar score, 130-118. The Hawks trailed by as many as 27 points Wednesday in a game the Bulls controlled for the final three quarters.
Here are five observations from the game:
Hawks coach Nate McMillan has been asked repeatedly the past several days about having to play with a roster that continues to lose players to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Hawks entered Wednesday’s game with four ‘rotational’ players, just three who were on the team’s opening-day roster in Trae Young, Cam Reddish and Clint Capela.
McMillan has been diplomatic in his responses but the mounting losses under incredibly challenging circumstances are clearly testing his patience.
“It’s a big-time challenge to guys in the game and they don’t know your system,” McMillan said. “You don’t have time to really give them anything because you can’t practice. We’ve been in the protocol and we’ve had to distance ourselves and be cautious being together. We are losing guys daily.”
The Hawks started a lineup that included all four available rotational players in Young, Reddish, Capela and Skylar Mays (two-way contract) – the NBA minimum to play a game. They were joined by Chaundee Brown, who signed a 10-day contract on Monday and made his second straight start.
The Hawks had a roster of 26 players, 14 of them unable to play. They had 12 players out because of the protocols and two others with long-term injury. Nine players are on 10-day contracts.
Following the game, both Young and Capela called the current situation frustrating and confusing.
“It’s crazy,” Young said. “I was told the reason we keep playing is the NBA didn’t want to stop games and postpone games. You are seeing teams around the league, even the team we played tonight, haven’t played a lot of games the last couple of weeks because they had a lot of games postponed because they had a lot of guys out. I think, it’s kind of confusing.
“We have three-fourths of our team out. I came to shootaround today not knowing most of my teammates. … We’ve got hit hard by this COVID and it’s kind of frustrating not getting games postponed.”
Young for the second straight game played the entire first quarter. He played all the third quarter on Monday and most of it Wednesday as McMillan has had to rely on the few experienced players.
“This is a regular-season game,” McMillan said before the game. “We are trying to win the game.”
Of the players on 10-day contracts, Brown had 14 points and Malcolm Hill and Cameron Oliver had 13 points each.
The Hawks stayed with Bulls in the first quarter, 38-36, despite Chicago shooting a 72.7% (16 of 22) field-goal percentage. The Hawks shot 50% (15 of 30) and didn’t commit a turnover. That all changed in the second quarter. The Bulls took a 74-53 lead into intermission as they shot 75% (14 of 21) in the second quarter and 69.8% for the half. The Bulls were aided by six Hawks turnovers in the second quarter and a scoring drought to end the half. The Bulls outscored the Hawks 22-3 to end the second quarter, which included a 16-0 run. A Brown basket with 6:04 left in the period was the Hawks’ last field goal. They managed just three free throws, two by Young and one by Brown, the rest of the quarter.
The Big Three
The Hawks were hurt by the Bulls’ all-star trio of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic once again. The three combined for 89 of the Bulls’ 130 points on Monday. They again led the Bulls, with LaVine (25), DeRozan (20) and Vucevic (16) contributing a combined 61 points. Vucevic had a total of 37 rebounds in the back-to-back games.
Bulls 131, Hawks 117
The Hawks have lost four of their last five games since they have been hit with the latest wave of the coronavirus, starting with Young going into the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Dec. 18. The latest loss is not a good way to start a six-game road trip. The Hawks play at the Cavaliers on Friday before going to the west coast for games against the Trail Blazers, Kings, Lakers and Clippers.
Star of the game: Zach LaVine. The Bulls star had a team-high 25 points, on 10 of 13 shooting, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He has combined for 45 points in the back-to-back games with the Hawks.
Stat of the game: 61.9% -- the shooting percentage of the Bulls for the game (52 of 84)
Quote of the game: “To not have 90 percent of our guys is frustrating for sure. Those games are going to be important for us down the line.” – Clint Capela on COVID-ravaged roster
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