By Drew Stevens
It's not about how you start, right?
One way or the other, the Chicago Bulls will find out after a 124-104 season-opening loss to Oklahoma City at the United Center Wednesday in which they left themselves, their head coach and most of the 21,369 fans in attendance wanting more.
Here’s what stood out.
The Bulls led 69-68 early in the second half, but watched the Thunder rip a 23-6 run that stretched from the 3:03 mark of the third quarter to the 9:54 mark of the fourth quarter.
The deficit eventually ballooned to 117-96 with 3:40 left in regulation before Billy Donovan brought Julian Phillips and Dalen Terry in off the bench.
“We gotta come together through those runs and go out there and make sure we make a game out of it,” said Zach LaVine, who, in the first half, missed all five of his shot attempts, turned the ball over four times and committed three fouls, which kept him on the bench for the last 10 minutes of the second quarter.
He shot 4-for-16 from the field and 2-for-9 from deep for the game and finished with 16 points.
“It was a probably a hard rhythm game for him tonight,” Billy Donovan said. “Just having to sit out like he did for a good portion of that second quarter.”
Save for a 20-second sequence in the first half in which Andre Drummond dunked on former second-overall pick Chet Holmgren, picked his pocket then crossed him over en route to an easy layup, the hosts didn’t give the sellout crowd much to write home about.
They missed 30 of the 42 shots they took from beyond the arc and scored just eight fast-break points in part because of how the Thunder — 54.9% from the field and 48.7% from three — made it rain.
DeMar DeRozan (20) led the team in scoring while Coby White (15), Nikola Vučević (11) and Torrey Craig (11) were the other Bulls to hit double figures.
The loss prompted a heart-to-heart between the players after the game.
“A lot of guys said a lot of good things,” Vučević said, “things that needed to be said. I think we can really use this to learn and change some things that we need to change. It wasn’t anything crazy, no fighting or none of that. It was really constructive. It was maybe one of the first times since I’ve been here that this was like this. And it was really needed."
While it’s certainly unusual for a team to need a powwow 48 minutes into a season, Donovan sees it as a necessary evil.
“The one thing I will say I think is good with some of the heated conversation and confrontation is that would've never happened last year. Ever. The confrontation piece, I think, is a sign that it's important to them and that they know that there's things that we've gotta do better.
“I wasn't in there for all of it, but I came in there and said what I needed to say. If that's going on in game one, I think it's, in some ways, really, really good because I think people are now stepping up. It's gotta be in practice. It's gotta be in shootarounds. It's gotta be all the way through.”
Said LaVine: “Guys want to win. You put up a game like this in game one, you're gonna have some conversations. Guys are frustrated and you should be...it sucks to have it happen in game one. It happened. We gotta go from there.”
The Bulls will get a second chance to make a first impression against Toronto (1-0) back at the United Center Friday.