Hawks @ Bulls — Things of Note

Graham Chapple —  January 26, 2017

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks managed — somehow — to escape the United Center with a comeback victory against the Chicago Bulls, 119-114. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 40 points while Dwyane Wade scored 33 points. Only one other Bull scored in double digits outside of Wade and Butler: Doug McDermot with 10 points.

The comeback/collapse

A basic summary of this game prior to this comeback: The Bulls led this game the whole way and the Hawks had done a decent job sticking within a run of the Bulls, but couldn’t mount that run to pull ahead/away from the Bulls because they had trouble slowing down Butler and Wade/getting stops. Summary over.

Dwyane Wade sunk a jump shot that put the Bulls up 110-100 with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, leaving the Hawks staring down the barrel of a second consecutive defeat. Coach Bud called for a timeout at this juncture.

In what was an astonishing minute and 19 seconds the Hawks clawed their way back within a point of the Bulls, 110-109. The Hawks eventually won the game 119-114 behind a 19-4 run over the final three minutes having trailed by 10 points with just three minutes left.

The Bulls should’ve closed out this game. Why didn’t they? How did this happen? Let’s break it down.

Let’s start with the first play out of the Atlanta timeout, trailing 110-100. This was probably the most important play as it’s the one that gets the ball rolling. If the Hawks were to miss this shot and the Bulls got a bucket down the other end — potentially putting them up 112/113-100 — then it’s essentially game over.

Dennis Schröder brings the ball up the court and passes it off to Kent Bazemore. Dennis makes a run off the ball and it seems as though his defender, Jimmy Butler, was supposed to be screened by Dwight Howard in order to free up Schröder. Butler eludes the screen and sticks to Dennis. Dennis returns behind the three-point line and receives the ball back from Baze. Paul Millsap sets a screen for Dennis and fades to the three-point line. Howard sets the screen on Butler, who has switched onto Millsap following the screen and this gives Paul enough space and time to shoot an open three-pointer and it goes down.

Postgame, coach Bud said that this three was the most important and gave the Hawks hope:

“That was big to come out of the timeout and Paul to hit that 3 to make it 110-103. I thought that was maybe the biggest shot of them all. He gave us a ‘Hey, we still have a chance.’” — Coach Mike Budenholzer

But this shot would’ve meant nothing if the Hawks couldn’t get a defensive stop and they had struggled all night to chain consistent stops. Now was the time to right that wrong.

The Bulls head down the offensive end. Butler quickly recognised that the Hawks were about to attempt to double/trap him, so Jimmy turns on the jets and heads to the paint. He passes the ball to Robin Lopez, who spins and is stripped on the way up by Millsap and the Hawks have successfully come up with a stop. Now, they push in transition with Paul, who passes to Bazemore behind the three-point line. Baze rises, misses the shot but collects the offensive rebound, drives and kicks the ball to an open Dennis Schröder who hits the big three-pointer.

Run this clip back and watch Dwyane Wade. For some reason, Wade decides to leave Dennis wide open, appearing to gamble that Baze would kick it out to the top of the three-point line, where Wade probably thought he’d be in the prime position to come up with a steal. Instead, his man is wide open he paid the price. Remember that for later…

So, the Chicago lead has been trimmed to four and the Hawks need another stop. All of the starters, bar Thabo Sefolosha, are on the floor. Instead of Thabo, THJ is on the floor, not exactly the person you’d want above Thabo if you want a defensive stop. I’m not saying THJ is a bad defender (if you want to, that’s up to you), I’m saying Sefolosha is a better defender and the player you’d want in the game if you wanted to come up with a stop. Anyways, Hardaway does a fantastic job on this possession in both sticking with Wade and contesting his shot. Wade’s shot is off and the Hawks come up with the rebound: another stop. Bazemore pushes in transition and outlets to THJ. THJ finds the trailer in the form of Millsap, who quickly hits up Bazemore, who is freely strolling into the paint. Baze, with the beautiful volleyball pass, finds THJ in the corner and he hits the three.

Pay attention to Wade again as you run this clip back. Look at the lack of effort he shows in this situation. Kent Bazemore is his man and Wade shows absolutely no effort or urgency to get back near Baze. Jimmy Butler is caught in two minds: either go and cut off Bazemore, who is basically walking toward the rim, or stick to his original man, Tim Hardaway Jr. In the end, he does neither. In fairness, what was Butler supposed to do here? If you leave Bazemore he’s just shooting an open layup, if you leave THJ he’s open in the corner. Pick your poison, essentially, but this problem is caused by Wade’s lack of effort.

And now, all at once:

That’s how you eliminate a 10 point lead in a minute and 19 seconds… Timeout, Bulls.

The Hawks would come up with another stop and take the lead courtesy of Dennis Schröder’s layup, concede two points to Jimmy Butler and re-take the lead for good with this emphatic alley-oop.

The Hawks sealed the deal at the free throw line and — behind a 41 point fourth quarter — claimed the unlikely 119-110 victory, much to the delight of Bob Rathbun, who was hyped.

We stayed composed. It shows our growth as a team. There are games when we’ve been down 10 and we let it go. It shows our growth. Right now, we have an opportunity to really gain some ground. I think that is what everybody is focused on.” — Dwight Howard

But it wasn’t the Hawks’ comeback victory that was the main focus postgame, rather, comments from the Chicago Bulls’ stars, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Going to spend a little time focusing on the Bulls’ narrative and their quotes because it’s very interesting. Feel free to scroll on down if you’re not interested.

First, Butler (NSFW):

And in quote form:

“If you don’t come in this motherf***er pissed off after you lose any game, something is wrong. This is your job. This is what you’re supposed to love to do, and I don’t think that everybody looks at it that way. I want to play with guys who care, guys who play hard, who want to do well for this organization, who want to do whatever it takes to win. Who cares who is shining? When we’re winning, everybody looks great.” — Jimmy Butler

You can pretty much agree with all of that.

Dwyane Wade, however, had a whole lot to say: calling out his teammates and throwing them under the bus, excusing himself and Butler from any of the blame. Grab a cup of tea, you could be here a while…

“I wish I could say that everyone in here is going to go home and not eat tonight. I can’t say that. I don’t know that they care enough. Games are supposed to hurt. You’re not supposed to sleep. You’re not supposed to want to talk to anybody. I don’t know if that is in guys in this locker room. Hopefully, they can prove me wrong. But I will challenge them to see if losses like this hurt.”

“We can play bad. We can miss shots. But we’re having too many of these lapses. This just can’t be acceptable if you want to do anything besides having an NBA jersey on and make some money. That’s all we’re doing right now.”

“I’m not at home with people. But I don’t know if I see enough guys who really, really want it. I’m 35 years old. I have three championships. It shouldn’t hurt me more than it hurts these young guys. They have to want it.

“If they don’t want it, then we’ll show up and play Friday. Hopefully, we’ll win. If we don’t, then we go to dinner again and keep it going until the season is over. It has to change. It has to hurt inside to lose games like this. This s**t should f***ing hurt.”

“It just doesn’t mean enough for guys around here to want to win ball games. It pisses me off, but I can’t be frustrated and I can’t care too much for these guys. They have to care for themselves. We have to do better knowing where you shots are coming and knocking them down. We have to do better knowing film, knowing your personnel. As a team, we have to do better man.”

“I’ve never had that problem (players not showing heart). They have to figure it out as individuals. Guys have to look at themselves in the mirror and see if you really care enough. Are you putting everything into it for your teammates and for yourself? I would say no.”

“Me and Jimmy, Coach puts the ball in our hands a lot to make plays, to make shots. That’s our job. I think for the majority of the season we’ve done it when (it) counted, when we needed to. I can look at Jimmy and say Jimmy is doing his job. I think Jimmy can look at me and say Dwyane is doing his job. I don’t know if we can keep going down the line and be able to say that.” — Dwyane Wade


Stephen Noh of The Athletic wrote a great piece about how these Wade comments are hypocritical (I would absolutely recommend reading if this subject interests you, great piece with video footage to back up case).

How can Wade say these things, given how poor he was on the defensive end last night (and all season)? How can he question his teammates’ effort when his own defensive effort is certainly below average? If you’re the a team leader, you have to set the example. How can you expect others to follow if you aren’t practising what you preach? Even in the clips breaking down the Hawks’ comeback, Wade is at fault for at least one of those three-pointers because of a lack of effort.

From that Noh piece:

I’ve watched every Bulls game this year, and I can definitively state that the players that have given the least effort defensively have been Rajon Rondo and Wade.

Says it all, really. Dwyane Wade, unbelievable gall… Jerian Grant certainly seemed unimpressed:

Makes you wonder what the rest of the Bulls’ locker room feel about these comments. I believe this is a turning point in the Bulls season. Either they’ll respond and play much better from here on out or they’ll just fall into a tailspin and I believe the latter will happen and will result in the dismissal of Fred Hoiberg. That’s just me though. It doesn’t look great for Hoiberg when your best player has no interest in calling a timeout:

In case you are unable to decipher what Jimmy is saying… “F**k no.”

That’s kind of all I wanted to mention from the Bulls’ side. Again, I recommend reading that article from Stephen Noh re: Wade.

For the Hawks, I’m left to imagine how different things could’ve been if they played with the sense of urgency they did coming out of that timeout with 3:02 remaining earlier in the game. They looked like a completely different team, they were so focused. Kent Bazemore eluded to it postgame also:

“We were playing super fast. We had guys flying around. It’s fun when you are playing that way because they are scrambling trying to find us, he’s down there wide open. He threw his hands up and I just threw it up there to him and he finished it. If we could play like that for 48 minutes, or a big chunk of it, we are a very dangerous team.” — Kent Bazemore

Given the nature of the game, this was a good bounce-back victory following a very disappointing home loss against the Clippers on Monday.

Great collective effort from starting unit

For the second game in a row, the Hawks starting five all scored in double digits (led by Dennis Schröder’s 24 points) and combined for 95 of the Hawks’ 119 points. In particular, it was great to see Thabo (18 points) firing. Thabo has definitely struggled with his offence at times this season (this was only his fourth game this season with 15 or more points) and to see him come out as he did in the first quarter (10 points) and score 18 total points on 6-of-8 shooting and 3-of-4 from deep, that’s really good to see. 

Kent Bazemore had another good night, 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 2-of-4 from three and seven assists. Base looked great last night, his confidence is oozing right now and you can see it so clearly. And you know he’s in good form when the Baze-Gaze is as strong as this

Definitely the best Baze-Gaze this season. Love the smile from Dwight too. He knows he’s coming and coming with a little shimmy no less. Yeah…that’s pretty good, ha-ha.

Unlike the last game, the starters didn’t have to do literally all of the scoring. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 17 points off the bench, including this great coast-to-coast dunk.

Hey, Hawks Twitter, what’s up with the Bulls coverage of this dunk??

Three-point barrage

The Hawks were on fire from behind the arc last night, shooting 17-of-30 from three-point range. 57%. Dennis Schröder and Tim Hardaway Jr. both made four three-pointers while Millsap and Sefolosha both made three.

It’s no coincidence that a lot of these three-point attempts were quite open…the Chicago defense was not very good. Having watched the Hawks all season (Hawks also rank 22nd in three-point percentage), it’s easy to recognise that this outburst was more so the Bulls making the Hawks look like a good three-point shooting team rather than the Hawks truly catching fire from behind the arc. Professional basketball players can make open jump shots…

But, you know, credit to the Hawks. You still have to make those shots and they did. You’ll take them however they come: open or not.

Inability to limit Wade and Butler

There are only two players you really need to plan for when you face the Bulls: Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. The fact the two combined for 73 points should disappoint the Hawks greatly. No wing defender could slow down either Wade or Butler, Wade in particular exploiting Bazemore.

The pair’s vengeance should have been expected. They both struggled in last Friday’s game against the Hawks and the Hawks should’ve expected them to come out all guns blazing after being embarrassed (while they were on the floor) last Friday. While part of their outburst is certainly due the Hawks’ below average defense of the two guards, other circumstances were at play here, including their revenge game from last Friday’s beatdown and, obviously, their sheer talent.

But despite that, the Hawks definitely could’ve done a better job guarding Butler and Wade.

More Dwight friendly-fire

On December 26th, Dwight Howard caught Paul Millsap in the face with this elbow, resulting in a black eye for Paul.

Last night, Dwight was back at it again, Mike Dunleavy the unfortunate victim this time around. 

Well…that’s two down, 12 to go?

Up next

The Hawks (27-19) are back in action on Friday, taking on the Washington Wizards at Philips Arena in what is a huge game for the Southeast Division leaders.

Game stats: NBA.com
Hawks quotes: The AJC via Chris Vivlamore
Bulls quotes: The Chicago Tribune via K.C. Johnson

Graham Chapple