Kris Dunn has always downplayed any individual matchup with Hawks guard Trae Young, whom the Bulls brought in for a predraft workout in 2018 despite trading for Dunn less than a year earlier.
“I like going against good players. And he’s one of them,” Dunn said following Friday’s practice at the Advocate Center. “The media created more of, as people want to say, the rivalry. Ain’t no rivalry. I just get up and bring what I bring. My defensive nature is to be aggressive.”
Whatever the case, March 3, 2019 provided all you need to know about the matchup. Playing at the United Center in the two teams’ first meeting since an epic, four-overtime game won by the Bulls in Atlanta, Young drew two technical fouls and an ejection.
Young’s first technical came when he and Dunn were each assessed one for exchanging shoves in the first half. Young’s second — which resulted in the ejection — came when he briefly glanced at the Bulls’ bench following a made 3-pointer.
The taunting technical proved controversial enough that a pool reporter interviewed crew chief Mark Ayotte after the Hawks’ victory. Dunn weighed in with his assessment after that.
“In my opinion, I don’t think he should’ve got ejected,” Dunn said that night.
As he said, he likes going against good players. Whether there’s a rivalry or not, there’s certainly some history and memorable moments. Unfortunately, another opportunity will not come on Saturday in the teams’ final meeting of the season. Trae Young will not be traveling with the team due to a right ankle sprain suffered on Friday night, leaving the Hawks without their primary offensive force.
“Trae Young is the head of the snake,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He’s a terrific player.”
That he is, but Dunn has completely smothered him in the individual matchup. And the Bulls are 2-0 this season against the Hawks, winning by an average of 27 points.
Young takes averages of 29 points, 8.5 assists and 4.7 turnovers on 36.6 percent 3-point shooting into Friday’s home matchup against the Bucks. In his two games against the Bulls, he is averaging 12 points, 8 assists and 5.5 turnovers while shooting just 1-for-14 from 3-point land.
Dunn has eight steals in the two games, including two outright strips of Young.
“I try to use my size and length and be aggressive. Just make it difficult for him, like I try to do against any good player,” Dunn said of his approach. “Make him drive it. I think it’s like that for a lot of these players. If they get the 3 going, they can get to the lane. Really, the 3 opens up everything. It makes his scoring and his decisions easier. So make him drive it and let it wear on his legs.”
Young posted 49 points, 16 assists and nine turnovers in that wild, four-overtime game in March, which featured some more chippy moments with Dunn. But, again, Dunn downplayed any extra motivation.
“I’m physical with everybody. That’s part of my defensive nature,” he said. “If you let players run around free, they can get it going. They can break the game open.”
Young can certainly do that. He just hasn’t this season against the Bulls and Dunn.
“I just think he’s been a focal point of what we’ve tried to take away. You can’t take everything he does away. He’s too talented for that,” Boylen said. “Our goal is to make him work, try to make him play through some hands and bodies. Try to contest the shots he does take. He has unlimited range. He has improved his physicality in his finishing. And he seems to be growing as a player.”
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