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Chicago Bulls Play-In/Playoff Preview

Finishing the regular season with a loss to the New York Knicks, Chicago now heads into the play-in game with a 39-43 record. They look to continue their up-and-down season with a 9-10 seed matchup vs the Atlanta Hawks this Wednesday (4/17, 9:30 PM EST). If Chicago wins, they will play the loser of the 7-8 seed matchup (76ers/Heat). They will then have to win that game to secure the 8th overall seed, resulting in a potential series versus the dominant Boston Celtics. Let's look into Chicago's matchup against Atlanta first.

The Bulls are hosting this game since they were the higher seed, which is excellent news. The funny thing is that Chicago isn't even that good at home (20-21). The reason it's good is because Atlanta only has 15 road wins this season, which is the worst among all teams in play-in/playoffs. The Bulls are 2-1 against the Hawks this year, but the point differential is only 3 points. However, I'm not sure how much this will matter, as both teams have been anything but hot since the all-star break.

Trae Young is very familiar with this stage and has a perfect 3-0 record in play-in games. He has been so dominant in these situations that people even label them as the Trae-in games. He is just returning from injury, though, so it is up in the air if he will continue this dominance while not being 100%. When Young faced the Bulls this year, he struggled. He is averaging 20.0 points per game when facing them, shooting 29% from the field and 22.7% from 3. The aggressive style of play from Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu has been tough for Young to adjust to, so the Bulls already have the advantage there.

On the other hand, Chicago's star, Demar DeRozan, hasn't struggled at all against the Hawks. It's a matchup he is probably looking forward to. Demar is averaging 28.3 PPG on 49.1% shooting from the field against them. The Bulls' future relies on his hands, and he looks to do damage once again on Wednesday.

It will be a close game, but I believe the Bulls will beat the Hawks. They will then have to play the 76ers/Heat game winner. If they draw the 76ers, I think Chicago's season ends. If they draw Miami, I think the Bulls could continue their season. I understand Jimmy Butler turns it up a notch when he faces elimination, but Miami hasn't looked good at all this year. Their offense has been very inconsistent, and if they have a game like that against Chicago, I can see the Bulls advancing to play the Celtics in the 1-8 matchup. If they get there, the Celtics will handle business easily, dominating the series 4-0 or 4-1.

The Bulls have a lot of good young guards but will have to figure out what to do with their big men and forwards to improve their defense. They can't keep playing small ball and expecting different outcomes. It will not work, especially when their center (Vucevic) isn't much of an interior defender. They will continue to be a play-in team for the future until they get that together. But all in all, it was good to see improvements out of Coby and Ayo. They both stepped their game up and looked to be key future pieces. Bulls must build around Coby and Ayo at the 1-2 and DeRozan at the three.

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