Chicago Bulls

Bulls' defensive deficiencies are Hawks' offensive strengths

Wednesday's play-in game could be determined by pick-and-roll defense, 3-point shooting

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All season, Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan has pointed to point-of-attack defense and rotating out to 3-point shooters as defensive focal points and areas with need for improvement.

Guess at what the Atlanta Hawks can typically be?

“They are really good in pick-and-roll. (Dejounte) Murray and Trae Young do a lot of that, and they’ve got supplemental shooting around them,” Alex Caruso said following Tuesday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “(Bogdan) Bogdanović is one of the best shooters in the league, top five, 10 percent based on volume and percentage. They are just dangerous.”

It might be simplistic to say Wednesday’s Play-In tournament game between the Bulls and Hawks will come down to how well the Bulls control the point-of-attack defense and 3-point line. But it will play a major role.

In the Hawks’ lone victory in the three-game series, they sank 19 of 40 3-pointers, including a 6-for-6 performance from Vit Krejci, who isn’t eligible to play Wednesday as a two-way contract player. Young didn’t play that April 1 game at the United Center, but it would be foolish to overlook his 37.3 percent 3-point shooting on extremely high volume of 8.7 attempts per game.

Not to mention Young’s ability to stretch defenses out with his shooting range and pick-and-roll navigation.

“Trae is a phenomenal player,” Ayo Dosunmu said. “Looking at his track record in the league around this time, he really plays his best basketball. A couple years ago, he took his team to the Eastern Conference finals and lost a tough series to Milwaukee. Last year, they were in the same (play-in) situation and beat Miami and went into Boston and won Game 1.

“Pretty much everything I’ve done against him in the regular season, you can throw that out the window. Because it’s win or go home and he’s an All-Star.”

Dosunmu has had success limiting Young in their head-to-head matchups over the last three seasons. But there’s no guarantee Dosunmu, who is battling a thigh contusion, will play on Wednesday. And even if he does, Caruso expects to draw the primary assignment on Young.

“But I will probably change throughout the game based on minutes, how they matchup,” Caruso said. “And if anyone gets going, my ego will probably take over and I’ll try to guard them.”

The Hawks also finished fourth in the NBA in second-chance points at 15.8 per game, which is why Andre Drummond’s potential absence following his sprained left ankle could be huge. Their 13.7 made 3-pointers per game ranked sixth.

The Bulls allowed the second-most 3-pointers in the league at 14.6 per game.

“With Murray and Trae Young and Bogdanović, just those three guys in particular, they’re all really good with the ball in their hands and they’re all really good in pick-and-rolls. So how well you can handle pick-and-rolls has got a direct impact on the 3s,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The last game here, Trae didn’t play so you’re adding another scorer, another ball-handler and another guy that gets to the free-throw line. So for us, how well can we guard the ball?”

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