Scouting Report: Chicago Bulls
The Hawks begin what might be the most important two-game stretch to date in terms of playoff seeding as they’ll face the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night, followed by the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
Since trading Luol Deng on Jan. 6, the Bulls have actually played pretty well. So well, in fact, that Tuesday’s winner will have home-court position in the Eastern Conference playoff standings – a spot that seemed almost unthinkable for Chicago five weeks ago.
The Bulls have turned their season around thanks to stingy defense and hustle. The allow just 92 points per game (second best in the NBA), anchored by Joakim Noah in the middle and Jimmy Butler on the wing. Chicago is very good at making shots difficult for opponents (3rd in opposing field goal percentage) and limiting opponents to one shot.
So how do you score against the Bulls? It’s not easy, but spacing and attacking is key. Chicago doesn’t want to move a whole lot, and the Hawks are very good at spacing the floor, attacking the basket and keeping the ball moving. It all starts with Jeff Teague and his ability to attack off the dribble. When he’s doing that, he’s able to create shots for himself and others, which opens up the game.
The other way to score is in transition. Atlanta should look to run on every missed shot or turnover if they can. Scoring on Chicago’s transition defense is a lot easier than scoring on Chicago’s half-court defense.
Offensively, the Bulls are trying to find themselves once again. Derrick Rose’s injury was a huge blow, and the loss of Deng meant another primary scorer was gone. They’ve been able to piece things together with a balanced effort (six players averaging double figures) led by Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s mid-range game seems to always be getting better, and he’s also been more aggressive at taking the ball to the basket this year. Him and Noah rank as one of the most underrated offensive frontcourt duos in the NBA.
Mike Dunleavy has filled in nicely for Deng as the starting small forward and now has his scoring average up over 10 PPG. Dunleavy actually led Chicago’s scoring effort in the first meeting between these teams, and DeMarre Carroll will again have a tough task, though Dunleavy isn’t a typical #3. He has a terrific outside shots, uses screens well and has the ability to create if necessary. His acquisition has turned out to be a big one for the Bulls.
The Bulls still rank last in the league in scoring offense, so if the Hawks can keep the ball moving and find a way to manufacture some points, they’ll have a chance to snap their five-game losing streak in the Windy City.
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