Drive offense sputters, lose to Bulls 93 – 96

The Grand Rapids Drive dropped their second consecutive game tonight, losing to the Windy City Bulls (the affiliate of the Chicago Bulls) 93 – 96 at the Deltaplex Arena in Walker, Michigan.

The loss had to come as a surprise, the Bulls had been on a skid that included two convincing defeats by the Drive already this season and they were without two-way player Tyler Ulis.

The Drive had a full complement of players as well, two-way players Keenan Evans and Zach Lofton were on the floor as well as Henry Ellenson and Khyri Thomas, (who have both played in all 5 of the Drive’s games) and rookie Bruce Brown made his first appearance in Grand Rapids.

The Drive came out fairly flat, as did the Bulls. G-League games are usually wide-open and high scoring and the score was tied at 23 at the end of the first quarter. The problems really came in the second quarter were the Drive managed just 18 points, which I believe is their lowest scoring quarter by a wide margin, and the Bulls scored 29 in the same frame.

The Drive offense was out of sync all night, struggling to deal with the aggressive trapping and switching defense that the Bulls employ. The Drive were forced into flinging up contested threes and having individuals go it alone in isolation and it was reflected in the final numbers. The Drive shot just 41% from the field and 19% from deep.

After falling behind by as much as 21, the Drive started to get it back into range in the latter half of the 3rd quarter and especially in the 4th quarter, given a boost by Micheal Bethea Jr, and they came all the way back to being within two points, but never got the game tied.

The Bulls seemed determined to not put the game away, missing 4 straight free throws to give the Drive a chance to hit a game-tying three. The first one saw Bruce Brown take the ball up the floor and hoist an off-dribble three which he air-balled. The second saw head-coach Ryan  Krueger draw up a play to get Khyri Thomas a look, but the Bulls read it and trapped Thomas in the corner forcing him to helpless fling up an air-ball as time expired.

Bruce Brown started the game at point guard, with Keenan Evans coming off of the bench, confirming the talk that the Pistons have made that they think Brown could be a point-guard down the road. The results in this game were, uneven at best. Brown’s lack of shooting caused issues for the entire offense as the Bulls sagged off of him, and he continued his trend from Summer-League of struggling to hold onto the ball and finish when dribbling into traffic. His defense, however, remains better than advertised, and his tenacity resulted in 10 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive. He remains very raw on offense, but the tools are there.

Henry Ellenson was probably the best player on the floor for the Drive as he ground out 24 points on 7-15 shooting from the field and 8-8 from the free-throw line. His continued work to get tough buckets was instrumental in keeping the game from getting totally out of hand.

Head coach Ryan Krueger was highly complimentary of the Bulls defensive effort, and said that while the three that Brown launched at the end of the game was not what they had drawn up, he thought it was a good look.

 

It is a disappointing loss for the Drive who fall to 2-3 on the season, but they won’t have time to dwell on it as they turn around to play the Canton Charge tomorrow (Saturday) night at 7:00pm EST at the Deltaplex.

Feature Photo: Thomas Sinke

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