There is just a certain amount of acceptance when it comes to nights like Thursday for the Bulls.
In the 97-81 loss to Atlanta, a horrific 29-for-95 shooting display. Just a tick over the 30 percent mark from the field.
And from three-point range? How about 4-for-22 (18.2 percent).
No wonder the Hawks started off the game by packing in the paint and daring the Bulls to beat them from outside. Not only a defensive blueprint that the Bulls will see on most nights when the games start counting next week, but one that had eye-opening results.
So what’s the remedy?
“Our pace has to be good, and it has been for the most part throughout this preseason,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of the stumble against Atlanta in the final exhibition game. “We have been getting it up, we’ve been having some quick strikes before the defense gets set. You’re going to have those nights, but the thing we did was we did guard on the other end and that kept us into the game until really the last part of the fourth quarter. But yeah, we’ve got to continue to fight, continue to cut, continue to screen when times get tough.’’
Not that the showing against Atlanta was unexpected. When you build a core talent void of consistency from three-point range, well, exhibit A.
The hope for the Bulls is they can push the ball up the court and keep the defense off balance, and when they can’t they have to be precise in their cut game and screens.
And even when they are there’s still going to be rough nights.
“There’s going to be moments where there’s nothing we can do, [the opposing defense is] going to get set,’’ Dwyane Wade said. “They’re going to score the basketball, so they’re going to get set. We’ve gotta make shots. There’s going to be moments where we have opportunities to get out in the open court, transition, and be aggressive, try and score the basketball, as well.
“There’s not one remedy. I mean we’ve shown through this preseason that we can score the basketball. First, it’s about putting it all together. Put the defensive game together, the offensive game together, and make shots when we need to make them. They’re going to go under screens on certain guys and we’ve got to do everything we can to make the shots. You’re not going to make it every night, and there’s going to be nights like this, but for the most part keep shooting.’’
Three other observations from the preseason:
1. Doug McDermott is going to be huge – Momentum has been building for the third-year player going into this season, and it looks legit. The Bulls will need it. McDermott is the best outside threat the Bulls have, and needs to be if they want to see the postseason.
2. Bench woes – Besides McDermott, the Bulls bench is more suspect than prospect. That’s why the front office took the gamble in landing Michael Carter-Williams. It’s a group that needs someone to stabilize them. Bobby Portis, Cristiano Felicio and Jerian Grant were all inconsistent, and rookie Denzel Valentine was injured.
3. As goes Rondo – The feeling is Rajon Rondo will be a point guard that can run Hoiberg’s offense like it should be run, but he has to cut down on his turnovers. Finishing with 20 turnovers in five preseason games was less than ideal. Hopefully, it’s simply growing pains for this group.