Doug McDermott’s silky smooth jumper was immediately followed by Jeremy Lamb treating him as if he were a three-feet cone on a 3-pointer.
Aaron Brooks’s third triple of the night was met by Kemba Walker losing him on a deadly crossover and nailing a jumper of his own.
The Bulls’ offense wasn’t a huge problem but it was a reminder about playing on one end of the floor won’t get it done, as they handed the Charlotte Hornets their first win of the season, a 130-105 drubbing at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The loss was their worst defensive showing in regulation since March 9, 2010, a 132-108 loss to the Utah Jazz—the last season before Tom Thibodeau took over as coach.
“It was a complete domination from the tip, and they just had their way with us,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We didn’t have any fight, no resolve, didn’t try and go back at them. Just kind of accepted it tonight.”
The only resistance was accidental, as they allowed the Hornets to hit eight of their first 10 triples and encouraged their 70 percent first-quarter shooting by being completely indifferent to the premise of defending.
In the first half, Joakim Noah nailed Cody Zeller with an accidental elbow that drew blood all over the baseline as the Bulls galloped downcourt for a 3-pointer.
Before then and soon after, it was evident that the Bulls were seeing red—and against one of the league’s most inept offensive teams at that.
But one wouldn’t know that by seeing Lamb, a recipient of a new three-year, $21 million deal many around the NBA questioned, responded by playing free, hitting his first six shots from the field on the way to 20 points, missing just one of his 10 attempts.
“I mean you want to compete,” Hoiberg said. “There’s nights that ball is not going to go in the basket, you gotta fight. I mean they scored over 30 every quarter, and that’s disappointing. Everyone seemed like they were on an island. Not only on defense, but offense and defense. Just not a good night.”
Lamb wasn’t the only one, considering the group of himself, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lin and Frank Kaminsky went eight for nine from 3-point range, putting on their best Golden State Warriors impersonation.
The Hornets shot 51 percent and 61 from 3-point range. In essence, the Bulls played like strangers.
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“It was an individual effort out there tonight,” Hoiberg said. “Nobody had each other’s back, nobody made extra passes, they outrebounded us by 19 … you can go right down the line. Just wasn’t there. We’ve been pretty solid on that end of the floor, holding a good percentage from three, keeping teams off the line pretty well, and they just beat us in all areas tonight.”
Seven Hornets scored in double figures, as they seemed to heed whatever suggestions former Bulls coach Thibodeau sent Steve Clifford’s way—Thibodeau and Clifford are close friends, as Clifford said Thibodeau sent “37 suggestions last night."
All of them must’ve worked, as the Bulls got worked from the opening tip, clearly a step slow defensively and unable to stop the bleeding. Hoiberg even inserted Joakim Noah to play with Pau Gasol to stop the damage Al Jefferson was inflicting on the Bulls but to no avail.
The Hornets kept pouring it on, with 37 first-quarter points and 69 in the first half, committing only one turnover in the first half. The Hornets were more aggressive in every tangible and intangible way, going to the line double the amount of times and outrebounding them by a wide margin.
It negated Jimmy Butler scoring 26 points in 32 minutes and even McDermott’s career-high of 17.
With the way the Hornets were shooting, the Bulls had better hope it was an aberration of the worst kind—because if this continues, it could be a warning sign of the worst kind of things to come.