Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
ATLANTA --- The Chicago Bulls improved to 2-1 on this four-game trip when they defeated the Atlanta Hawks Monday night at State Farm Arena.
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Here are 10 observations:
---Ayo Dosunmu scored a career-high 29 points, tying his previous career-high of 26 points on a poster dunk. After making a career-high five 3-pointers on Saturday in Orlando, Ayo Dosunmu made his first four attempts and matched that career-high with five. It’s the first time in Dosunmu’s young career that he has sank at least four 3-pointers in consecutive games. It also marked the 13th time in the last 14 games that Dosunmu has scored in double figures. He also added seven assists.
"We didn't start the game great, but I thought Ayo's pace and tempo in that second quarter really got us back in the game," coach Billy Donovan said. "He got downhill."
---Trae Young missed seven of eight shots in the first half and finished 3-for-14 for 19 points. The Bulls did a good job playing physically on Young and crowding his space both on the perimeter and on drives. Young did get to the line 12 times and finished with 14 assists. But once again, Dosunmu guarded Young well.
"It was a two-way performance by him," Donovan said of Dosunmu's defense.
---DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic had huge games, finishing with 29 points and 24 points and 11 rebounds, respectively. They routinely provided big hoops when needed.
---The game had potentially significant implications on the play-in race. The Hawks entered the night one game behind the Bulls, who had won the first meeting at the United Center on the day after Christmas. Now, the Bulls moved two games ahead and clinched the three-game season series, which gives them the tiebreaker.
"This was a very important game," Dosunmu said. "They're right behind us in the standings. We understand this last stretch before the All-Star break is crucial. Every game counts. We knew we let one get away in Orlando so we knew we had to find a way by any means to get the win."
---The Bulls played their seventh clutch game over their last eight. They lead the NBA in clutch minutes, defined as any game within five points and 5 minutes or less. They are now 17-13 in clutch games.
---The good news is Torrey Craig was no longer on a minutes limit, logging 27 minutes. The bad news is Craig started for Alex Caruso, who sat with a left toe contusion. Caruso said multiple people stepped on his foot during Saturday’s overtime loss to the Magic. Caruso tried to work through the injury at the morning shootaround but couldn’t go.
---Caruso’s absence also meant early minutes for Julian Phillips, who played in a rare extremely big lineup for the Bulls. For brief stretches, the Bulls played Phillips, Craig, Andre Drummond, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White together. Donovan has talked about utilizing the double-big lineup of Drummond and Vucevic more often down the stretch, as long as Drummond avoids foul trouble.
---Donovan talked pregame about the need for Phillips and Dalen Terry to have more discipline to avoid fouling, part of their growth and development process. Both are raw and experienced players. Almost right on cue, Phillips fouled De’Andre Hunter in the corner well after Hunter had landed from a jumpshot. In the second quarter, Jevon Carter fouled Hunter for a four-point play in the same corner.
---With Caruso out, Carter returned to the rotation after not playing in Orlando. At the morning shootaround, Carter admitted he’s surprised he’s playing so little. He finished with 11 points and two assists in 25 minutes, his most as a Bull. He also forced Trae Young into an 8-second violation following a made basket simply by picking him up fullcourt.
"He's always been professional," Donovan said. "He keeps himself ready to play. I give him a ton of credit. I made a comment about him in the locker room after the game because I think it's great for some younger players to understand (sacrifice) sometimes."
---After shooting 5-for-21 on Saturday in Orlando, Coby White struggled early but came on late to finish 8-for-17 for 20 points. White also added seven assists and four rebounds and has refused to use his heavy minutes load or fatigue as excuses for his recent shooting woes. But White looks like a player who will welcome an All-Star break.
---Terry contributed seven points and four rebounds in 21 minutes and played particularly well during his third-quarter rotational turn, sinking a 3-pointer off sublime ball movement by the Bulls and also attacking the rim for a nifty reverse layup.