Chicago Bulls

Bulls pounded by Hawks, snapping six-game winning streak

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Bulls pounded by Hawks, snapping six-game winning streak

ATLANTAAll good things must come to an end, but the way the Bulls (7-2) six-game winning streak ended Saturday night at the hands of the Hawks (6-3) was jarring. Outworked from the games outset, the Bulls took a pounding, 109-94, in front of a spirited crowd at Philips Arena, in a game were they trailed for the entire contest and their vaunted defense was shredded the entire evening.

"I thought we were prepared, but I didnt like the way we started the game. We started it the same way we did in Chicago, got in a big hole, said dismayed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team allowed a layup by Hawks All-Star center Al Horford off the opening tip. Theyre good. Youve got to give them a lot of credit. I thought that they came out with a lot of intensity.

This is the NBA. Youve got to come every night, youve got to bring great intensity and if you let down a little bit, this is what happens, he continued. It was a compilation of things. It wasnt any one particular area. It starts with our defense, our rebounding and taking care of the ball. So we didnt do those things. The rebounding was fine, the defense was poor, taking care of the ball was poor and dancing with the ball. There was way too much one-on-one.

Chimed in Derrick Rose: They came out aggressive, got us out of our game, playing hard. I give them credit. They came out and played the way theyre supposed to play.

We were keyed in. We thought we were, but when we went out there, it was totally different. Everything wasnt going together. Of course, you can see the score, he added. We were just out of sync. Dont get me wrong; theyre a good team, they played good, but there were some things we could have done differently in that game.

Both teams came in tired after playing the previous evening, but the Bulls were clearly less prepared to play, as the Hawks, playing the third game of a back-to-back-to-back, started the game on a 12-1 run, seemingly scoring at will against their guests. The first quarter was a repeat of the Bulls lackluster first three periods against Atlanta at the United Center last Wednesday, with Chicagos shooting miserably and surprisingly unable to defend either.

Athletic Hawks forward Josh Smith (25 points, six blocked shots) wreaked havoc both inside and outan inconsistent perimeter shooter, Smith was knocking down jumpers, as well as being active on the interiorvictimizing Carlos Boozer (12 points, five rebounds), in particular, who was also glaringly inept on offense, bobbling passes and unable to finish. The entire teams struggles couldnt be pinned on the much-maligned power forward, however, as the guests trailed, 33-18, after a quarter of play.

Tonight was terrible. They were soft blitzing like in the playoffs, trying to get the ball out of my hands. Just wasnt clicking tonight, with making the extra pass and just playing, said Rose. It is the starters fault. If anything, Ill take the blame. Me, I didnt push the ball, wasnt aggressive, but I couldnt be because they were trapping. But its no problem for me to take the blame.

Chicago was forced to play catch-up in the second period and behind reserves Taj Gibson (11 points), Omer Asik (eight points, 13 rebounds) and Kyle Korver (13 points, 3-for-5 three point shooting, five assists), made a run at the hosts, cutting the deficit to just two points to get back within striking distance. Perhaps the effort took too much out of the visitors, as they once again became lax, Derrick Rose (eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, six assists, five turnovers) couldnt get going and Hawks go-to scorer Joe Johnson (17 points) began to heat up.

This ones on the people who started the game. Our second unit came in, brought it back and then, we went back in and dropped it again, so theres a pattern and we just need to find a way to play better because it was embarrassing tonight, observed Joakim Noah. You know what? They played very well tonight and we know were capable, and we know weve beaten this team before, but at the same time, the way we played tonight was embarrassing.

Added Luol Deng: Just our defense. our defense was really bad. We gave up the lead again and they had a lot of energy playing at home. Normally, we rely on our defense, but they shot the ball well in the first half. Give them all the credit, but our defense has got to be better.

I really thought our second unit played well. Our first unit, we gave up a big lead to start the game and to end the half, we gave up that lead again. They went into the half with a lot of confidence and in the third quarter, we didnt play very well defensively and we didnt make shots, and they got out in the open floor and ran, he continued. Were never going to have any excuses. We just didnt show up and they played well."

Atlantas frontcourt in general started to feast on the Bulls, as face-up big man Vladimir Radmanovic (17 points, 5-for-5 three-point shooting), defended by Boozer, was a menace from behind the three-point line, backup center Zaza Pachulias hustle made an impact and All-Star Al Horford (14 points, seven rebounds) was solid, as usual. Following a Johnson jumper over Luol Deng at the halftime buzzer, the Bulls went into the break behind, 63-45.

They were up into us. I thought we were dancing with the ball and when you dance with the ball, youre not going to get a shot against these guys. The ball has to move. Thats the one thing. I thought offensively, they were terrific. They moved the ball. The ball was hopping for them. They got good shots. We couldnt get our defense established, Thibodeau explained. I thought we dug out of the hole in the second quarter and then, they went 13-2 to end the half to give themselves a cushion again. So you cant keep fighting to get out of holes and then, we went back and we started the second half. We just repeated what we did in the first half. Josh Smith is a great shot-blocker.

Radmanovic played huge, but again, they were breakdowns with our defense, so it created shots in which they were walking into their threes. They were rhythm threes; they werent challenged threes and so, you give a shooter open space, hes going to make. In this league, you usually get what you deserve.

While Boozer redeemed himself offensively immediately following the intermission, the Bulls continued to have defensive issues, as the prolific shooting of Radmanovicwho started the second half in place of small forward Marvin Williams, who sprained his ankle early in the contestJohnsons scoring prowess, young point guard Jeff Teagues (12 points, eight assists, five steals) burgeoning floor generalship and the athleticism of Smith and Horford on the defensive end helped the Hawks cushion further balloon. In addition to its defensive woes, Chicago simply couldnt find an offensive rhythm, as turnovers, poor shot selection and a general lack of fluidity plagued the Philips Arena guests.

You win as a team, you lose as a team, but at the same time, Ive got to take responsibility for my play. I just feel like I need to do better, said Noah, who was then asked whether he previously thought the Bulls were incapable of such sieve-like defense. As soon as you start feeling that way, thats when things like this happen, so weve stay on edge.

Concurred Rose: Its our defense. I give them credit for what they were doing, but our defense let them score, get easy baskets in transition. You give anybody easy baskets, its definitely going to hurt you.

Midway through the third period, however, a Rose driving layup and traditional three-point play when Atlanta was on the verge of pushing its lead to a 30-point margin sparked a mini-rally, as the Bulls discreetly chipped away at the massive deficit. However, continued lapses quashed their momentum and heading into the final stanza, the visitors were on the wrong end of an 85-62 score.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau understood when to cut his losses and went with an all-reserve lineup to start the fourth quarter, which became extended garbage time. Things didnt improve for the visitors, as Atlanta native Smith threw down numerous fast-break dunks, exciting his hometown fans, who chanted for the likes of longtime NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse and brawny newcomer Ivan Johnson alike, while deep reserves Brian Scalabrine and rookie Jimmy Butler (12 points) saw action for the Bulls.

The group that ended the contest for Chicago actually showed some positive signs, as Butler and third-string point guard John Lucas III (16 points) used the opportunity to showcase their abilities against the Hawks regulars, who surprisingly remained in the contest late. But overall, the disappointing outing was something the Bulls were surely ready to put behind them, with a welcome day off Sunday before a rematch with another likely-vengeful opponent Monday, this time at the United Center with Detroit.

Ill say this: the intentions, I think were good. I know we want to win. I think where youve got to be careful is trying to do it yourself and we have to stay committed to being a team, even when things arent going our way. Settle down on defense, settle down on offense, do it as a team, get the ball moving, share the ball and we do that, and play defense tied together, were good, said Thibodeau. But if we dont do thatthis is a tough league and every night, youre facing someone whos really good and the Hawks are a really good team. Theyre well-balanced, theyre good on offense, theyre good on defense.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Shepkowski (670 The Score) and Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel. Jake Arrieta will return to the rotation to face the Brewers. Can he recapture his pre-injury form? Mike Glennon gets another start Sunday but should he get the hook if he struggles again?

Plus, the guys discuss the one metric that says the Bulls are the worst team in the NBA.

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

Doug Collins made it clear, that his return to the Bulls organization won’t result in a return to the sidelines as head coach, meaning Fred Hoiberg has nothing to worry about in the way of looking over his shoulder.

What Collins did admit, though, is he’s back with the Bulls to provoke thought. Anyone who’s listened to Collins as a broadcaster for ESPN or Turner Sports, or talked to him in any basketball capacity, knows he’s not only a hoops lifer but also someone who can have strong opinions, capable of quick dissection of a complex picture in a moment’s notice.

“I’m not here to be a decision-maker. I want to provoke thought. My mind is very active,” Collins said Tuesday afternoon at the Advocate Center. “And I think to get into a room and to bounce ideas off each other or whatever, at the end of the day, Gar, Michael, Jerry, Pax will make those decisions. The beauty of it is is that when there’s a level of trust when you’re talking about things, you can speak openly and honestly with people knowing the only thing that matters is that whatever happens is the best for the franchise.”

Announcing Collins as a senior advisor to executive vice president John Paxson adds another voice to the Bulls’ braintrust and is probably an admission this rebuild will require more than what the Bulls already have, be it in terms of connections, observation and even innovation.

Collins’ connection to Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf, a growing relationship with Michael Reinsdorf and ability to relate with Hoiberg due to the misery of coaching should align a front office to the floor in ways that has been in doubt for the past several seasons.

“Given Jerry's relationship and my relationship with Doug over the years, we thought, hey, let's see if maybe this isn't a good time for Doug to come back into the fold,” Paxson said. “So we approached him and it was very casual, no expectations other than he's been a friend of ours for so long. But the more we kind of dug into the prospects of this and what it means, the more we kept asking ourselves, why wouldn't we do this?”

Collins made it clear he won’t be giving up his family life, as he already has residence in Chicago and his son Chris is coaching Northwestern and a son-in-law coaching a high school team outside Philadelphia.

“The hours and the time commitment that Fred Hoiberg puts in on a day and the energy that he spends and being on the road and being away from his family,” Collins said. “(This) worked perfectly in my schedule when I talked to Pax that I could be a part of something special, the Chicago Bulls, and I love the Chicago Bulls.”

His energy and passion can light up a room, and though he tried his best to say that’s died down at age 66, claiming “I can sit and do a crossword puzzle for three hours now”, people wired like Collins don’t lose their fervor for the game.

“I think there’s this feeling that I’m a guy who’s always on and fired up,” Collins said.

But that fire and passion and presumably a willingness to be uncompromising with the truth should be something that’s welcome inside the Advocate Center. In addition to his acumen, one of Collins’ greatest strengths is his fervor, and it shouldn’t be scaled back.

That’s not how rebuilds work successfully. Lines have to be crossed and people have to be made uncomfortable in their line of thinking, even if it’s Paxson or Hoiberg or general manager Gar Forman.

It’s not hard to see the Bulls following the thinking of the Golden State Warriors when they added Jerry West in an advisory role years ago, resulting in several key moves being made, most notably West’s objection to Klay Thompson being traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love before Love was eventually moved to Cleveland.

West’s guidance played a part in the Warriors’ upward trajectory to championship status, and he hopes to have a similar affect with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Comparing West with Collins on its face is a bit unfair, considering West’s experience as an executive and championship pedigree dating back to his days with the Lakers.

At least with West, he’s not trying to convince anyone he isn’t anything but a tortured basketball soul at age 79. Collins reminded everyone he’s a grandfather of five and at a spry 66, West would call Collins a “spring chicken.”

What Collins can bring is a keen eye for observation, and expecting him to be a passive personality doesn’t quite seem right, especially leaving the cushy job at ESPN that allowed him maximum exposure and a schedule to his liking.

Perhaps the way Collins left the NBA, with a massive gambit in Philadelphia falling flat when Andrew Bynum’s knees rendered him useless and sending the 76ers franchise into “The Process,” left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

Maybe his competitive juices got him going again and the broadcast booth just wasn’t cutting it, along with having a front seat to the injury that changed the course of the Bulls franchise when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in 2012 against Collins’ 76ers.

Maybe the crossword puzzles just couldn’t get it done anymore. After all, the man once cried on the sidelines as his Detroit Pistons beat the Bulls in a regular-season game in 1997. Curbing that passion would be a disservice.

“See how things quickly change? The NBA is cyclical now,” Collins said. “Other than the San Antonio Spurs, over the last 20 years, every elite franchise has gone through this moment. And so now what you got to do, you got to dig yourself back up.

“We got to start doing all the things that are necessary to gain assets day by day, to put all the work, so we’re going to give ourself a chance, when we continue to get better players and more talent, that you’re going to win more basketball games.”

Collins said he has old-school values, all while being caught up with the times that he called himself “woke” as a nod to the current culture.

If he truly is, we’ll also find out who’s asleep in the front office, in desperate need a loud wake-up call.