The Bulls recovered from the loss against the Lakers by beating the Hawks on a back-to-back. The Bulls won thanks to a combination of shooting well (50% overall, 39% from 3s) and denying opportunities for Trae Young, who finished with 9 points and 3 assists. Sato led the Bulls with 27 points, 8 assists & 7 rebounds.
The Bulls Wednesday in Atlanta had it going again not unlike how they did Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. The defense was determined, crowding and frustrating Hawks star Trae Young like the Bulls did to Anthony Davis. Tomas Satoransky on the way to a career high 27 points with eight assists and seven rebounds blitzed the smaller Young, scoring seven quick points as the Bulls went on an early 20-4 run. Otto Porter Jr., who would miss the second half with a foot contusion, was flawless with four baskets, two of them three pointers. The Bulls were in command with a 24-12 lead eight minutes into the game when Zach LaVine bolted out to block a De'Andre Hunter jumper. As the ball settled, Lauri Markkanen reached above Bruno Fernando and Hunter to direct the ball ahead to a fast breaking LaVine alone near half court.
LaVine grabbed the ball as it bounced toward the Bulls basket. LaVine took one dribble into the lane with Hawks players far behind and lifted off. LaVine spun counter clockwise for the slam dunk.
His 360 was the highlight play of the game.
Zach LaVine throws down the 360 dunk
But for the Bulls, the most significant was the 180 they did a day later with accurate shooting, relentless and restless defense, building a 15-point halftime lead, extending it to 27 after three quarters and defying the NBA's longtime logic that everyone makes a run.
Not this time in a Bulls 113-93 victory.
Bulls at Hawks game recap
"We played 40 really good minutes last night, but that's not enough," said Bulls coach Jim Boylen, who faced intense criticism following Tuesday's loss and blown 19-point lead. "I'm really happy for our guys and I'm proud of them. They played 48 minutes together, they fought, they responded. They were hurtin' from the way the game ended last night. But they held on to the things that we did well and I'm just really happy for them, proud of them. I've said all along that this is a high character group and I thought they showed it tonight."
Excellent character is important for raising children; making shots is more important in basketball games.
The Bulls did that against the Hawks in, really, improving play that has been obscured by the dramatic losses. The Bulls vastly outplayed a Lakers team that was the hottest in the league until that fourth quarter miasma. An efficient and effective prior win over the Pistons had been swallowed up the next day in a loss to an undermanned Indiana team.
So the progress the team was making continued to be eclipsed by the late game pratfalls and a one step forward, two steps back record which is now 3-6. The start of seasons in sports often have exaggerated impact, if not importance, because of the informal law of first impressions. From your first look at a date to your first looks at the standings, you want to smile. Especially when there are expectations, like for the Bulls this season. Instead came an anguished community cri de coeur.
Could this be happening again? Not with all the hope!
"I think we were all frustrated the way the last game went, but this league is all about that," said Satoransky. "We almost beat one of the best teams, playing 36 minutes of good basketball. Then you have to bounce back in another city. I think we did that today and hopefully this can be a turnaround game for us."
The recent signs of improving play were positive and cumulative, if mostly ignored considering the recent setbacks. But the veteran players the Bulls were counting on to buttress the youngsters, like Satoransky and Porter, were the leaders against the Hawks. LaVine and an invigorated Lauri Markkanen followed along comfortably.
Satoransky used his size on offense to blow through Young to start. And then he helped keep Young frustrated as part of an hydraulic defensive plan to trap Young off screens. Otherwise the Bulls were switching in other coverages, apparently confusing the Hawks. It was 3-4 Atlanta's poorest production of the season.
"I think our bigs did a good job on him being up at the level of the screen," said Satoransky. "We didn't let him have an easy start on us. I think we were aggressive on offense as well against him. And we tried to run every time that we had the opportunity."
Porter had 13 points on five of six shooting in 12 minutes and sat out the second half with the foot problem. It didn't initially appear serious, though Boylen said he didn't know the depth of the problem. The Bulls play Houston in the United Center Saturday. Markkanen had 17 points with four of seven threes and three blocks in his most unflagging effort since the opening game. He drove to the basket, posted and pushed the pace offensively.
"He is trying to play the right way," said Satoransky. "He (Markkanen) has to stay aggressive, and I think he made a lot of quick passes today. I think that is what the coaching staff wants from him and that is what we want from him. We still are trying to get used to one another. I think he is fighting a little bit of that shared ball (philosophy). He stopped being aggressive and we need him to be that way because that is Lauri's biggest strength. And I think he did an excellent job of that today."
LaVine had just 10 points with his spotlight dunk, but his all around play has been all too overlooked. Just before his dunk, his steal led to a Kris Dunn fast break score and LaVine led the team in rebounds with Wendell Carter Jr. in foul trouble, was second in assists, had two steals and two blocks and a team best plus/minus rating. Dunn had a superior defensive game with five steals and 13 points while Chandler Hutchison in his second game of the season showed his possibilities the team missed from the wing position
Hutchison started the second half for Porter and had nine points. But his dashes to the rim led to a team most seven free throw attempts. The Bulls have quietly been waiting for his return to support the small forward position. And assuming Porter is healthy, Hutchison likely is to gobble up some of his playing time because of his speed and arm length on defense. Coby White added 10 points.
"Last night hurt," acknowledged White. "We were up 20 and gave the lead away and that was the third time we did that this season. It was a collective group win; it wasn't one person. Sato played great, he had like 27. But other than that it was spread out. Everybody was playing together and tonight you could see we all had one common goal and that was to win. We came out and wanted to set the tone."
The Bulls shot 62 percent in the first quarter and made four of eight threes to stun the low flying Hawks. The Bulls? Hey, did you see their record? The Hawks were tone deaf in a sense.
But it wasn't those Bulls who left Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce afterward denying there was anything positive for his team. Asked about anything encouraging, he said just that the game was over. Pierce said sometimes there aren't any positives.
They were all property of the Bulls who offered some hope for perhaps what was supposed to be.
The Bulls snapped the ball around to three and four hands, adding up 26 assists, the last three games the three highest assist totals of the season. The Bulls continued among the league leaders with 11 steals, their lack of interior size offset by perimeter length and quickness that left the Hawks flummoxed.
The Bulls led 33-19 after one quarter and 56-41 at halftime, though still with a sense of dread given recent late events. Though this did feel different. Satoransky celebrated with a three at the buzzer to close the first half and then a straight line driving score early in the third quarter when the Bulls opened with a 9-2 burst for a 20-plus point lead they basically maintained the rest of the game. The Bulls also won the rebounding for the first time since the opener.
Dunn had driving scores after turnovers and White also ran for scores as the Bulls had an 18-6 margin on fast breaks. Hawks rookies Cam Reddish and Hunter were combined two of 15 shooting, and didn't look that good. And Satoransky kept up the pace in the fourth quarter to his career high scoring game. He blew by Young for a driving dunk from 30 feet away, made a three and then another for the Larry Bird box score.
It's been a difficult transition, otherwise, for the former Washington Wizard who was a star for the Czech Republic national team this summer. He hadn't scored in double figures in any game and was averaging about six points. Satoransky never has been known for his offense, though he is a good shooter. He appeared to be insistent on being the compatible teammate. But by making he and Thad Young off season priorities, the Bulls expected more.
Satoransky is a pleasant and amiable 28-year-old who's been a pro for a decade, mostly in Europe. He seems always to have a smile and positive reaction. Though he tightened when asked earlier this week after practice whether his lack of scoring was due to the burdens of international play this summer.
"I don't agree with you," Satoransky said after a pause to seemingly gather himself. "I'm working hard the same way like I did in World Cup. Obviously, it's a different role for me. I'm doing everything on my team, but I know what's my role here and how I have to help my guys. It's a frustrating start for me as well. I expected better from myself, but I'm playing as hard as I did in the World Cup. I'm never taking days off.
"We are trying to get there," Satoransly added after Wednesday's win. "This definitely helps get you in the direction you want to be, bouncing back on the road like that against a very good team that beat San Antonio; that's a very good sign. You just keep going. We are trying to figure it out as soon as possible. We are in a good direction now."
Perhaps the alarm finally went off for the Bulls. Right, all nine games into it. Right, finally.