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10 Observations: Bulls drop first of four In-Season Tournament games to the Nets

Here are 10 observations from the Bulls' first in-season tournament game

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The Bulls lost to the Nets for their first In-Season Tournament game. In group play (Group C in the East) they are officially 0-1 with three games left to play.

Here are 10 observations from tonight's game:

--- Torrey Craig got his first start for the Bulls, taking over for Patrick Williams. Heading into the game, Williams went scoreless in two of the last three games. Williams has shown hustle, per usual, this season. But his failure to get anything going on offense forced Billy Donovan's hand with the starting lineup, moving him to the second unit.

--- Ayo Dosunmu missed Friday night's game and will not travel to Denver with the team due to an upper respiratory illness. Along with Jevon Carter, Dosunmu has been playing terrific two-way minutes off the bench. Donovan rolled with a nine-man rotation on Friday, bringing Williams, Caruso, Carter and Drummond off the bench.

--- The Bulls turned the ball over a decent amount early and the Nets took advantage. They scored an early 10 points off Bulls turnovers and generated 14 fast break points to the Bulls' paltry four. Maybe the Bulls' turnovers were underlined by the Nets' lack of, but still, they need to take better care of the ball. Nets put down 35 points in the first quarter.

--- Both teams couldn't miss from the 3-point line in the first half. The Nets, who have the second-best 3-point percentage in the league, knocked down 11 first-half 3's on 21 attempts. The Bulls hung with them, shooting 9-of-17 from downtown. This game marked only the second game this NBA season where both teams notched 9+ 3-pointers in the first half.

--- As Stacey King always says, KYP, or "know your personnel." The Bulls found a way to keep Cam Thomas and Mikal Bridgers considerably under wraps in the first half on 44% combined shooting. But Royce O'Neal and Dorian Finney-Smith dominated, shooting a combined 8-of-18 (7-of-10 in the first half) from behind the arc.

--- On that last point, the Bulls dutifully made adjustments between quarters that stuck for the majority of the game. They closed out on the perimeter, generated turnovers in the paint and forced several shot clock violations. The Bulls allowed the Nets to put up 35 points in the first frame, but just 24 points in the second, 19 in the third, but a critical 31 in the fourth.

--- Without Nic Claxton, the Nets rolled out a fairly small lineup. But the Bulls didn't take advantage of getting the ball to Nikola Vucevic to capitalize. Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn mentioned before the game the Nets' would need to respect Vucevic in the paint. He ended with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting.

--- Williams heard Donovan's message of moving him to the bench loud and clear. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, adding five rebounds and an assist. Will Donovan keep Williams on the bench? Craig wasn't amazing in the starting lineup (3 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) but his veteran presence and defensive prowess might fit better with the starters. Williams would certainly have more offensive opportunities off the bench, too.

--- Zach LaVine was given the ball for a late shot to try and tie the game down three points. Unfortunately, a well-timed Ben Simmons foul sent him to the free-throw line. The combination of Vucevic and Andre Drummond was able to turn LaVine's second missed free throw into an offensive rebound, but he couldn't sink what would've been the game-winning shot.

--- The Bulls are now 0-1 in the In-Season Tournament. They have three more games on their four-game in-season tournament slate. They play the Orlando Magic at home on Nov. 17, then the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics on Nov. 24 and 28, respectively, each on the road.

HM: How about that aesthetic at the United Center on Friday night? The Bulls changed their court floor for the first time in its history, rocking an all-red floor with a white Bulls logo in the middle over the NBA cup. They donned the 2023-24 City Edition jerseys to match the event, too.

The Bulls play the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night on the road.

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