Atlanta Hawks (38-39, 8th Seed)
- Trae Young (26.3 PPG, 9.9 APG)
- Dejounte Murray (20.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 6.1 APG)
- Clint Capela (12 PPG, 11.1 RPG)
The Atlanta Hawks have been the definition of a .500 team for most of the year. They made a huge move in the offseason to get all-star Dejounte Murray to the team, but still have not been able to make the jump to the East’s elite.
They are led by Trae Young, who is pacing the team in points and assists, and is among the league’s best in both of those categories. Despite these strong numbers, Young has seen a dip in efficiency from last season to this one, shooting just 43.8% from the field and 34.2% from deep. Trae has struggled with efficiency against the Bulls this season, with 36.2/33.3/82.1 shooting splits in 3 games. Chicago would need to continue hounding the star point guard in order to win a potential play-in game against Atlanta.
A single elimination game between the Hawks and Bulls would almost certainly be another nail-biter.
The Chicago Bulls have played close games against the Hawks this season, with two games ending on buzzer-beaters. The Bulls’ 4th quarter play is going to be vital as history has shown a matchup against Atlanta will go down to the wire.
They will need a strong performance from their two stars, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, down the stretch in order to pull out a win and hopefully advance to the first round. Additionally, the Bulls will need to take advantage of Trae Young’s defensive liability and capitalize with solid point guard scoring.
This means that Patrick Beverley, Alex Caruso, and Coby White need to get aggressive and test Young on the defensive end. Finally, the Bulls cannot commit bad fouls in this game, as Trae Young and the Hawks are among the league’s best at the line.