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Hawks prevail over Bulls in overtime thriller to snap three-game skid

An AJ Griffin buzzer-beater gives the Hawks a much-needed victory

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks ended a three-game losing streak with an overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls at State Farm Arena on Sunday night.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks — boosted by the return of De’Andre Hunter — with 28 points while Trae Young added 19 points and dished out a tied season-best 14 assists. For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan scored 34 points to go with 13 rebounds and eight assists. Zach LaVine added 21 points.

The Hawks looked comfortable for much of the game, holding the lead for most of the game once they took it from the Bulls in the early stages of the second quarter before establishing a double-digit lead in the third quarter, then a seven point lead heading into the fourth. But a strong start for the Bulls reduced the lead to one point and from here on it was a game.

Fast-forwarding to the 3:15 mark of this game where the Hawks have just tied the contest at 105-105 after a made shot from De’Andre Hunter. The Bulls — and Hawks — had a number of opportunities to break the tie but neither side could take advantage in the following possessions.

The Hawks came up with some good defensive plays to help make this possible, starting with De’Andre Hunter’s defense on DeRozan to get in his space and contest the mid-range:

The Hawks miss a good opportunity in the corner on a three with Griffin after a good swing to the rookie from Bogdanovic in transition, and have to come up with another defensive stop and manage to do so as Griffin blocks the reverse layup attempt as the help defender underneath the rim:

The Hawks miss another good opportunity with Bogdanovic after he worked his way into the shot and the Bulls have another opportunity to take the lead, this time through Nikola Vucevic but guarded by Capela he’s forced to fadeaway and his shot is short:

Finally, the tie is broken as Young — who had a difficult night from the floor last night — gets the rare blow-by in this game and gets to the rim for the layup to give the Hawks the lead again:

The Hawks’ defense again comes through for them as Hunter helps create a turnover as he gets a hand in on DeRozan’s drive and the balls knocks off of DeRozan and out of bounds, returning possession to Atlanta:

The Hawks can’t follow their defensive possession with another basket as Griffin misses another three at the end of the clock and the Bulls work quickly in transition to get an alley-oop for Derrick Jones Jr. to tie the game:

You can see the confusion for the Hawks in defense here and the Bulls are well spaced on offense in transition with the ball-handler attacking and two others on the wing. Between Young and Bogdanovic, you can see the confusion of who should be where and in the end Jones ends up with the alley-oop. Can’t really fault the Hawks a ton on this play, the Bulls were just well set up for this transition play.

The hosts respond well though, and Young catches the Bulls defense napping/expecting to come off the double screen and Young’s pull-up three is good and the Hawks take a three point lead, leading to a Bulls timeout:

The Bulls would respond out of the timeout with a neatly drawn play to get DeRozan a dunk:

This play was impressive from the Bulls — having Vucevic with the ball obviously takes Capela away from the rim and is able to find the pass to DeRozan when he does well to break free from Hunter on the cut. It’s a good ATO from the Bulls and gets two points back quickly for the visitors.

DeRozan would get the jump again on Hunter on the drive — with the Bulls now needing a basket — but the help from Clint Capela at the rim helps deter DeRozan at the rim and it rolls off the rim:

Capela played his part here but it was a surprise DeRozan didn’t get this to go, but it leaves the Hawks in a position where they can now ice the game at the line. After Young is fouled by LaVine, the Hawks take a timeout with just under 10 seconds remaining, and this is where this game went from a standard close game to a bit of a crazy one.

When the Hawks inbound the ball they get it to Griffin, and the Bulls get a hand on the ball but Coby White is called for the foul:

The Bulls challenged the call and the officials determined that the call was indeed incorrect, that White had got all ball first, and because the Bulls were in possession after, the ball was given to Chicago. Instead of two Atlanta free throws to try put away this game, the Bulls now have a chance to win this game — a huge swing.

Hunter again does well to contest the DeRozan pull-up but on the rebound Derrick Jones Jr. get a hand in and he’s fouled by Griffin in the act of shooting with 0.4 remaining on the clock:

A nightmare for Griffin, who by this point down the stretch has missed several shots, had the ball poked away from him to lead to this possession and now the foul to give the Bulls a chance to win the game at the line. Fortunately for himself and the Hawks, Jones misses the winning free throw and time expires.

Fast-forwarding through overtime, the Hawks take a three point lead with a simple pick-and-roll with Young and Capela, who finishes at the rim:

The Bulls would go on to miss a three with LaVine (a good three over Young) before the Hawks would miss two three-point attempts themselves with Bogdanovic and Young. The Bulls would punish the hosts for their missed opportunities as the ball is swung to the weakside to Coby White, who hits the three to tie the game:

The defensive breakdown here I think is on the Trent Forrest/Bogdanovic switch, forcing Young over to cover the rim and this gives White the opportunity in the corner.

Young’s isolation plays were not really successful last night but he gets one to go when it matters and he hits the shot over White with one second remaining on the clock, leaving the Bulls a very tough task now:

“I’m kind of mad at myself I didn’t get the last, last shot,” said Young postgame of his go-ahead basket. “I wanted to get the last shot but didn’t want to call up a screen for them to come up and trap and jumble it up and force me to make a tough pass or a tough play. I kind of wanted more space and was able to get to my shot and get to my look that I’ve been having all night and able to knock that one down, I’m happy that one went down.”

It was a seemingly impossible for the Bulls to be in a position where the Bulls could walk away with a victory after overtime, trailing two with one second left. That was until Bogdanovic fouls DeRozan on a three-point attempt at the buzzer, sending DeRozan to the line to not only tie the game but to give the Bulls a lead with 0.4 remaining.

“Bogi knows that, you don’t foul,” said Hawks head coach Nate McMillan. “Basically what we wanted to do was force their catch out and just put our hands straight up. You don’t try to contest a shot or move. Just make them shoot over the top of you. Bogi tried to contest a shot and ended up fouling, I wanted to get a bigger player on the ball, Jalen, so they couldn’t get anything towards the rim. We did a good job of forcing the catch out. DeRozan was close to halfcourt, that was going to be a tough shot for him to make. We got a break there.”

The Hawks’ task at this stage seems now suddenly impossible.

They use their first timeout and have Young inbounding the ball and when the Bulls’ defense gives the Hawks nothing, they use their final timeout. Lead assistant coach Joe Prunty is seen sitting down and going over a play with Nate McMillan standing next to him. They switch the inbounder to Jalen Johnson. From there, AJ Griffin escapes underneath the rim enough to receive the ball from Johnson, turn and hit the shot to win the game at the buzzer:

“That play was the biggest play of the game tonight,” said McMillan of Griffin’s winner. “To catch that ball and basically have no vision of the rim and in one motion turn and locate the rim and able to get it up there softly to finish — well executed play. And you have to give credit to another: Jalen, who made the pass. That’s not a play that we’ve worked on, it’s a play coach Prunty had and they executed it well.”

The presence of Nikola Vucevic in front of Young was a clear deterrent for Young to get the ball inbounded and when nothing else opened up, the timeout was there for the Hawks to use.

“The play I drew up initially, Trae was taking it out and he couldn’t see anything,” said McMillan of the play. “So coach (Prunty) said we needed to get a bigger guy in there to inbound the ball and he drew up the play with Jalen inbounding the ball and give us some size and he gave us a perfect pass.”

“Joe drew up a great play,” added Trae Young. “It was for me to come off but I set the back-screen and he wanted me to come off the top and if I was open over that double screen he’d throw it to me but to look at the guy down low too. It was a great play, AJ made a hell of a play for us.”

Griffin was full of smiles as he spoke to the media postgame, clearly elated and still adjusting to what had just transpired — there was definitely a sense he hadn’t fully come down yet from the euphoria of hitting already his second buzzer-beater.

“It’s starting to happen consistently,” chuckled Griffin postgame. “Second time, same thing going through my head, just in shock at how fast it happens. Coach drew up a great play and JJ, that’s a great pass.”

Trae Young drew parallels to his own buzzer-beater against the Milwaukee Bucks in his rookie season, a home game in overtime with Young having not a lot of clock to adjust and somehow stick through a winner:

“We were talking about my game-winner when I was a rookie,” said Young. “One second left — very similar, in the paint — ball got tipped around and I made a floater at the last second. He did the same thing. It was cool to see his reaction. He was so happy, I’m happy for him.”

Just an absolutely mad finish to this game.

From the Hawks losing possession after the challenge at the end of regulation, the fouling of Derrick Jones Jr. to send him to the line, Jones missing the winning free throw, Young hitting what looked like the game-winner, Bogdanovic fouling a DeRozan three, DeRozan sinking all three to give the Bulls the lead, and to Griffin hitting the buzzer-beater...just a crazy end to a game the Hawks looked comfortable in for much of it.

It was bizarre...the Hawks somehow ended up with this game going to overtime when they should have won in regulation and at the same time the Bulls somehow sent this game to overtime when they should have also won it at the line at the end of regulation.

Nate McMillan talked about the play to win the game and how lead assistant coach Joe Prunty drew the play, praising not only members squad for the execution of the play but their performance throughout the game before heading back out on the road again.

“Unbelievable,” smiled McMillan postgame. “We talked about fourth quarter execution, remaining calm — our three C’s — being clear about what we needed to do and being connected in the fourth quarter. They did that. It took every second of the 48 minutes and to overtime to win this game. Coach Prunty drew up a game-winning play, our guys did a good job of paying attention and executing that play to give us us the win. We had some players to make some big plays tonight. Bogi really stepped up and knocked down shots for us tonight. AJ got a rhythm tonight, I thought De’Andre — it was good to have him back guarding DeRozan. Both he and Bogi had the assignment of guarding DeRozan. Trent did a really solid job on LaVine. It was a team effort. We mixed in a lot of zone to break their rhythm, I thought we did that. We needed to take care of business here at home before going back out the road and our guys did.”

The Hawks are hobbled and hurt, with McMillan expressing a bit of early concern ahead of the Memphis game tonight. Trae Young was one of those that McMillan would appear to be concerned about, the All-Star taking quite a few bumps and falls last night.

“I’m banged up for sure,” said Young postgame. “My back on that charge kind of hurt — gotten treatment for that — my elbow diving for the ball too is still numb on my pinkie but it’s all good, I’ll be alright.”

The Hawks were, however, boosted by the return of De’Andre Hunter, who scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field in 26 minutes, playing on a minutes restriction (which was why he was nowhere to be seen in overtime). Bogdan Bogdanovic is also still working on a minutes restriction but played beyond it last night as overtime arrived.

“We did blow past it,” said McMillan of Bogdanovic’s minutes restriction. “The fourth quarter, he had five minutes in the fourth quarter — is what I was given. I had to manage that fourth quarter. I took him out about the six minute mark and he had just hit a three and he had only three minutes left so I had to take him out and get him back into the game. We went with that rotation until the three minute mark and then Dre’s time ran out so I had to get Dre out and get Bogi back in to finish the game. Once we went to overtime, Bogi was like, ‘Look, I’m going to stay in. I want to play. I’m going to finish this.’ The trainer gave him the OK to do so. You’re managing two guys who are on minute restrictions and fanbases going crazy on me because I took Bogi out the game! I wanted to... ‘talk to the trainer!’ It worked out tonight. Just happy for the guys that we got this win.”

McMillan was in good humour as he discussed Bogdanovic’s minutes restriction, and depending on how Bogdanovic feels today after playing extended minutes — 35 in total — it can’t be too long before he’s off that restriction.

His production last night was invaluable — 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting and 6-of-14 from three; a great follow-up performance to his fantastic Brooklyn showing coming off of that 0-of-10 night against the Knicks. With Young struggling from the floor (5-of-18 from the field), Bogdanovic continues to highlight how sorely he was missed with performances like this.

Elsewhere, Hunter was good in his return to action, Clint Capela notched another double-double, AJ Griffin struggled from three (2-of-11) but came through when the Hawks needed it most at the end of overtime, Onyeka Okongwu was great off the bench (especially in the first half) and Trent Forrest was really solid defensively, coming up with multiple defensive plays and continuing to highlight why the final roster spot should be his as his performances help somewhat cushion the loss of Dejounte Murray defensively in the backcourt, with McMillan pleased with the defensive job Forrest applied on Zach LaVine, who was quiet in this game for his standards.

A much-needed victory for the Hawks. This game probably went further than it should have for the Hawks — they should have both won and lost this game in regulation at the same time, but were the better team for most of the 48 minutes last night. If they had lost, they would’ve had only themselves to blame for the fouling mishaps at the end of both regulation and overtime. It was their game to lose.

But they somehow pulled it out and a win is a win, and given the condition the Hawks are in with restrictions and injuries, the manner of performance getting there isn’t really important right now — not until the full cast is back. Hunter’s return helps nudge the Hawks just that bit closer.

The Hawks (14-13) are back in action tonight in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies (17-9).

A potentially tough fixture, but one that should be fun nevertheless.

Until next time...