Scouting Report: Chicago Bulls
The Hawks (26-29) ended their eight game losing streak on Saturday with a win over the Knicks at home. Their next test will be the Bulls (29-26), a team the Hawks have lost to in their first two meetings. Chicago’s defense held Atlanta to 85 points on 37.2% shooting and 84 points on 43.8% shooting in their first two meetings, respectively.
Making matters more difficult, the Hawks will have to take on the stingy Bulls defense without their All-Star forward Paul Millsap (knee contusion) as he will be out for at least the next two games. The Hawks got the win on Saturday without Millsap, using a shortened bench and Coach Bud rode a lineup of Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Mike Scott and Elton Brand throughout most of the second half for the comeback victory.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Bulls defense is very much the opposite of the Knicks. Anchored by Joakim Noah — one of the NBA’s most active and effective rim protectors — their defense allows only 92.3 points per game with a defensive rating of 100.5, both second to the Pacers. Jimmy Butler, their best wing defender, is battling a rib injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game against the Heat. Without Butler, the Bulls defense is slightly weakened, but with Noah and Taj Gibson patrolling the frontcourt and the commitment of all of their players to playing hard in Coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme, the Bulls are always a tough team to score on.
On offense, Chicago ranks last in points per game at 92.5 and are 28th in the league with a 100.5 offensive rating. DJ Augustin has provided them with a scoring option at the point guard in Derrick Rose‘s absence, but they lack much scoring punch aside from him, Noah, and Carlos Boozer.
The Hawks will have to find a way — despite being short-handed — to push the pace in order to attack the Bulls before they can set up their halfcourt defense. Jeff Teague did a tremendous job in the fourth quarter of the Knicks game pushing the ball up the court at every opportunity which really sparked their comeback.
The Bulls always present a big challenge to the Hawks because of their defensive prowess, and with so many injuries the Hawks will have even more of an uphill battle to climb. Finding ways to push the pace of the game and a obtaining a team commitment on the glass from their wing players will be crucial for the Hawks if they are to get themselves a second-straight victory.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images