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Atlanta's big men cause problems for the Bulls again (and other Bulls/Hawks takeaways)

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The Bulls almost came back and beat Atlanta but they fell just short.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games away from the eighth seed means the Chicago Bulls aren't likely making the playoffs. Chicago dropped their fourth straight game, losing to the Hawks 102-100, as though Atlanta nearly blew the lead late before recovering. It was nice to see the Bulls battle back from a double digit deficit to tie the game, but in the end they couldn't get it done. At least one more loss means they drop in the standings which means a better draft pick come June.

Atlanta's defense has been one of the most talked about defenses in this league and for good reason. The Hawks are second in the league in defensive efficiency, and are the best in terms of field goal percentage as they allow opponents to shoot only 43.3% per game. One big reason why Mike Budenholzer's team has done so well on the defense end is the versatility of Millsap and Horford. Both are able to switch on the pick and roll and are able to hold their own when matched up against guards. We saw that late when Derrick Rose switched onto Millsap late in the game and Rose was forced into taking a tough reverse layup, which he missed. Millsap was able to force Rose to go baseline and take a contested reverse layup rather than have an easy move to the basket. This has been something Millsap has done all season as he has forced opponents to shoot around 6% less than their normal field goal shooting percentage when he is guarding shots less than six feet from the basket, as shown in the visual below.

Horford's numbers aren't too shabby either. In fact, he's better defending three's than Millsap is.

Both Millsap and Horford are not individual standouts defensively, but they do their job well enough to help this Atlanta defense become one of the best in the league

Two other takeaways

2. Atlanta's big man can also hurt you on the offensive end

Just like the last time these two teams played, Atlanta's bigs played a key role in their victory. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are a big part of what Atlanta does on both ends of the court,and they are both players who always seem to show up against Chicago. This game was no exception as both Horford and Milsap recorded double doubles against the Bulls. Horford had 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting (54.5%) while Millsap had 11 points and 11 rebounds and knocked down a three.

When defending against big men who can shoot from the outside, Chicago always struggles. Both Horford and Millsap shoot a decent percentage when their shots are coming outside of the paint. Millsap shoots around 40.9& while Horford shoots around 46.9%. This can create matchup problems as defenders like Pau Gasol, can't rotate over quick enough to either of them to contest outside shots. Like we saw with Kristaps Porzingis last week, the Bulls can't guard big men who shoot well from the field.

3. Rough night for Derrick Rose

Jeff Teague lit up Derrick Rose in this matchup. Teague had 26 points on 9 of 18 shooting and had seven assists on the night as well. He took advantage of some very bad defense by Derrick Rose, including two back to back possessions where we say Rose get beat by Teague leading to easy baskets. Teague is a pretty good point guard and was going to score points against the Bulls regardless, but Derrick Rose just made his job easier.