Given the gauntlet of opponents the Chicago Bulls have faced in this stretch right after the All-Star Break, they have to take advantage of games they should win. A victory would have really helped in the standings given the Miami Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. However, thee Bulls couldn’t get it done and suffered a bad 130-124 loss on the road to Atlanta Hawks.
Chicago had a nine point lead late in the game, but bad defense and some great offense from Trae Young did them in during crunch time, ultimately giving up 40 points in the final quarter.
In that fourth period, Billy Donovan made an interesting call by tabbing Tristian Thompson to be the power forward alongside Vucevic. The move does come with it’s own set of trade-offs, especially offensively it does hurt the Bulls ability to stretch the floor. On defense, it affects their comfort level when it comes to switching on the perimeter, but having Thompson out there means does help their rebounding and inside post presence.
After a Nikola Vucevic putback layup to put Chicago up two with just under two minutes to go, one stop would have put them in prime position to finish off the game. But it wasn’t just Young’s shotmaking that got his team the victory, this feed to Bogdan Bogdanovic was critical to the Bulls downfall.
There's help and then there's too much help. pic.twitter.com/hdZfaYkKBZ— Mark K (@mkhoops) March 4, 2022
We can see from the clip above that Atlanta was clearly hunting for a matchup advantage as they try to screen Ayo Dosunmu with Kevin Huerter, who is being guarded by Thompson. The Hawks nearly get the switch they wanted but Ayo, as he so often does, navigates the screen well. He takes a risk by going under but does it quickly enough to where Young doesn’t have time to launch from three. However, there are still 10 seconds left for Chicago to defend. Young drives into the lane and once he gets to the free throw line, we see Zach LaVine stepping up to help and stop the drive. But it comes at a grave cost, Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is shooting 37.5 percent from three this season, is left wide open the corner. It’s easy pass for a player of Young’s caliber to make as he finds his teammate, who knocks down the shot to give Atlanta the lead.
To make matters worse, as the tweet points out, LaVine didn’t have to help that much. Young wasn’t going anywhere and with Ayo all over him, it’s certainly possible that the possession could have ended with a contested jumper if LaVine had just showed help for a quick second then recovered back to the corner.
Chicago still had time to go ahead as DeRozan brought up the ball up the front court with 1:30 to go. Everyone in the arena knew the ball was going to be in his hands on this possession.
Here, the Bulls brought over Dosunmu from the corner to set as a screener but it turned to be a decoy as DeMar went the other way towards the baseline. De’Andre Hunter did a good job of stopping the drive, forcing DeRozan to stop and go right to the top of free throw line.
This is usually around the spot where DeMar loves to stop on a dime and either shot or pump fake an opponent into contact. But Hunter beats him to the spot and forces DeRozan to counter. He spins but seems to do it a bit too early/high up in the paint. It causes DeRozan to be off-balance and as he gathers himself, he walks with the basketball, turning it over. It’s a rare mistake from a guy who usually comes up big in situations like this one.
It’s now or never for the Bulls after that turnover. The defense needs a stop here and absolutely cannot afford to give up a three.
Again, it all comes down to stopping Young....
TRAE YOUNG pic.twitter.com/a3N7DSq9gZ— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) March 4, 2022
Dosunmu is once again tasked with guarding him. Ayo does the smart thing and forces Young to dribble left and on his non dominant hand. But Young uses his quick first step to go right by Dosunmu, forcing the rookie to play catch up. It looks like Young is going to drive into the lane but as soon as he gets into the three-point line, he jumps back. Dosunmu, thinking he’s going to be driving as well, is caught off guard and is too far away. With that much space, Young pulls-up and nails a back breaking three-pointer.
It was desperation mode at this point. On the next Bulls offensive possession, DeRozan passes to Coby White in the corner, but Huerter blocked the attempt sending the ball clanking off the top of the backboard. A few moments later, Young hits another three, icing the game.
The Bulls were in control during the final moments of the fourth quarter. But they saw their lead evaporate and needed to respond. Sadly, they couldn’t come up with the needed plays on either end of the court.