Hoiberg looking to correct slow starts by Chicago Bulls
Even while using different lineups in preseason, the Bulls have made the same mistakes at the start of every game.
The most obvious deficiency is defense, but they've been bad at both ends of the floor in the first quarter. In the past three games the Bulls played, their average deficit at the end of one quarter has been 33-22.
"That's got to stop," coach Fred Hoiberg said after Tuesday's practice. "It's almost like we're taking the temperature of what the other team is going to do instead of us imposing our will as soon as that ball is thrown up for the tip."
The Bulls rested some regulars over the weekend, but Monday against Charlotte, they used the potential regular-season starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez. The Hornets shot 55 percent in the opening quarter and led 32-20.
Those numbers would suggest the starters have a long way to go defensively. But when the same players returned to finish the first half, the defense was fine. Charlotte shot 20 percent from the field in the second quarter. At the start of the second half, the Bulls' starters outscored the Hornets 10-7.
The same thing happened in weekend games vs. Cleveland and Milwaukee. Despite falling behind early, the Bulls won both by double digits.
Basically, it has been a preseason of peaks and valleys. The Bulls have one more game to work on things, Thursday in Omaha, Neb., against the Atlanta Hawks.
"We gambled less, I think, as (Monday's) game went on," Hoiberg said. "We fouled less in the second half. We scored 36 points in the second quarter. It's just eliminating those silly plays that are getting a team free points. Fouling a guy 80 feet from the basket, you're giving them free points."
The Bulls might be too aggressive on defense at the start of games. When players go for steals and miss, it leaves the defense out of position and often leads to fouls.
"There were four or five guys that had gambles that led to baskets for the other team," Hoiberg said. "It breaks your defense down, and then you're playing five on four. We need to eliminate it."
Hoiberg called it a teaching opportunity and kept the team in the film room for an extended period on Tuesday.
When it comes to settling on the regular-season lineup and rotation, Hoiberg isn't ready to commit. Nine days before the Oct. 27 season opener against Boston at the United Center, the list of available players has been changing.
The Bulls acquired 6-6 point guard Michael Carter-Williams from Milwaukee on Monday. He took his physical Tuesday morning and did not practice, but was on the floor when the workout ended. He will likely get some playing time in Omaha.
Nikola Mirotic, a candidate to start at power forward, sat out Tuesday's practice with a lower back strain. He was injured in Monday's game after colliding with Rondo. Meanwhile, rookie Denzel Valentine has been out since the preseason opener with a sprained left ankle. He has increased his activity, but Hoiberg isn't sure yet if he'll play against the Hawks.
"We have an idea what we'll do (with the regular-season lineup)," Hoiberg said. "We'll get together after (Thursday's) game and see where things are."
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