What went wrong for Bulls in season opening loss?

  • The Bulls opened the season with a disappointing loss at Charlotte on Wednesday, but what really went wrong? Mike McGraw checks the video for some teaching moments.

    The Bulls opened the season with a disappointing loss at Charlotte on Wednesday, but what really went wrong? Mike McGraw checks the video for some teaching moments.

Updated 10/24/2019 7:53 PM

The Bulls used a phrase Wednesday that was probably heard in most NBA locker rooms: "It's just one of 82."

And there's obviously truth to the cliché. The Bulls' 1-point loss in the opener at Charlotte was disappointing, but won't make or break the season.


There's usually someone who has it worse and at least the Bulls didn't lose to Phoenix by 30 points, like Sacramento did late Wednesday.

The Bulls trailed the Hornets by 16 points in the second quarter, rallied to lead by 10 with six minutes remaining, but gave it away at the end.

Since this was the first of 82, let's look back at the Bulls' loss to Charlotte and try to pick out what went wrong and whether reasons for optimism remain.

Give some credit

Watching the game for a second time, what stands out the most is Charlotte played a great game. The Hornets did some things that may never happen again, mainly hitting 23 of 44 3-point attempts.

Rookie P.J. Washington wasn't known as an outside shooter at Kentucky, but set an NBA record with 7 3-pointers in his career debut. Then Devonte Graham and Marvin Williams came off the bench to hit a combined 11 of 14 shots from behind the arc.

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The Hornets took their largest lead at 63-47 late in the second quarter on a sequence that was a thing of beauty. First, Graham noticed they had a mismatch with Coby White guarding Washington. So they got the ball to Washington in the post, while both Lauri Markkanen and Thad Young slid down to help. As soon as he felt the help defense, Washington fired a pass into the opposite corner and without hesitation, the Hornets threw four quick passes around the perimeter, finding Washington again, but now wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer.

Credit Charlotte coach James Borrego and his staff for a solid game plan and good execution with a very young lineup.

The slow start

Technically, this wasn't a slow start by the Bulls. They led 4-0 early and went ahead 23-22 late in the first quarter on a driving layup by Kris Dunn.

But in a foreshadowing of the fourth quarter, when things went wrong for the Bulls, it happened in rapid fashion. Graham split defenders for a 3-point play, Williams hit a 3 over a pretty good contest and Graham buried a 3 off Malik Monk's penetration for a 9-0 run in about a minute.

A better third

The Bulls were able to shake off the deficit and outscored Charlotte 40-33 in the third quarter. It seemed clear the halftime message was to attack the basket. The Bulls got 26 of those 40 points in the paint.


On defense, the Bulls had better focus and contested more shots, but still gave up a 3-point flurry to Williams late in the quarter.

Markkanen scored 10 of his 35 points in the third quarter. It was a nice performance by Markkanen, but the reality is he was guarded by the 6-7 Washington most of the night and should have scored at will with the size advantage. Charlotte didn't play another big man besides Zeller and were willing to live with the consequences to put a small, quick lineup on the floor.

Dunn was the catalyst when the Bulls opened a 10-point lead. He had 2 steals and 7 points in the run that put the Bulls up 115-105. LaVine's only 3-pointer of the night made it 118-108 with just over six minutes left.

The Bulls had possession twice with a chance to extend the lead and made a couple of critical mistakes. LaVine overdribbled and lost the ball out of bounds. Then White was called for a charge on a fast break when he should have had Markkanen for an easy layup.

The late failure

After White's charge, Charlotte delivered another rapid run. Several quick passes set up an open Graham 3-pointer. Then the Bulls twice ran a White-Wendell Carter screen and roll, which resulted in good shots at the basket, but they all missed. The Bulls got back on defense, but weren't watching the 3-point line and Graham walked into another 3 to make it a 4-point game.

After the Hornets tied it up with 2:38 left, the Bulls got a 24-second violation and this one seemed to be all on LaVine. First, he walked the ball into the frontcourt and didn't give it up until there were 11 seconds on the clock. Eventually, LaVine and Markkanen ran a screen-and-roll and while both defenders stuck with LaVine, he drove the ball into traffic rather than dish to Markkanen for an open 3-pointer.

Markkanen gave the Bulls one last lead by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 1:55 left, but Charlotte answered with a nice play call. Knowing the Bulls had been blitzing the screen-and-roll all night, the Hornets ran two in a row, involving four different players. The Bulls defense was scrambled and Zeller got an easy dunk off a pass from Graham.

Lavine tried to create for himself on the other end, couldn't find room and gave it to Carter, who traveled. On the other end, Graham beat Tomas Satoransky off the dribble and dished to Bacon for an open 3 that put Charlotte up by 4 with 1:10 left.

After Markkanen added 2 free throws, the dagger came when the Bulls couldn't corral the long rebound after a Bacon 3-point miss. Then they had chances to get the ball down by 2 with a defensive stop, but fouled twice.

Teaching moments

Overall, the Hornets played very well and the Bulls showed some lapses in basketball IQ at important moments. LaVine had a rough shooting night (7 for 17), but did miss a lot of easy shots. Those should come around, but he needs to be smarter in late-game situations.

Satoransky had a quiet night with 2 points and 3 assists, but actually played pretty well. He made some good passes and kept the ball moving. Dunn played about twice as long as Satoransky in the second half, which made sense since the Bulls were struggling to contain Charlotte's speed.

Otto Porter (9 points, 2 rebounds) was mostly out of sight, out of mind in this game, though he did have the Bulls' best plus-minus number. He never really tried to use his size advantage and lost a rebound battle to 6-1 Terry Rozier in the first quarter. The Hornets attacked Luke Kornet defensively and in the second half, he played just the final four seconds. Neither Porter nor Kornet was a good match for Charlotte's small lineup.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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