Bulls pull out much-needed win in Atlanta thanks to guard Ayo Dosunmu

ATLANTA – Billy Donovan saw it back in Nashville.

That’s when the Bulls coach knew that guard Ayo Dosunmu had put the work in over the summer and was no longer playing with doubt.

“I felt like in training camp you could see the signs that he was starting to do those things,” Donovan said. “You saw him making the (right) decisions. I think he has a much better feel of how he’s being guarded and what are the things he can go to.”

That go-to bag was full against the Hawks on Monday, and Dosunmu emptied it all out.

Thanks to a career-high 29 points by the former Morgan Park standout, the Bulls cruised to a much needed 136-126 win over an Atlanta team that was breathing down their necks in the standings.

“Very important,” Dosunmu said of the win. “Right behind us in the standings and we understand that this stretch and then coming out of the All-Star Break is going to be very crucial. Every game is going to count. We let one get away in Orlando (on Saturday) so we knew we had to come out here and find a way by any means to get the win.”

Not an easy mission, considering the already short-handed Bulls (26-28) were missing Alex Caruso (left foot) on top of Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine. That’s where Dosunmu stepped in.

It wasn’t just the point total, but how he scored, stretching the defense out by going 5-of-7 from three-point range, handing out seven assists, and then maybe his most impressive feat, shutting down All-Star Trae Young on the defensive end.

Young, who came into the night averaging 27.1 points per game, was held to just 19 points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-10 from three-point range.

Not the first time Dosunmu had given Young some problems on that side of the ball.

“He’s one of the better guards in the league,” Dosunmu said of his matchup with Young. “My length is able to affect him, but he’s a good player. He brings competitiveness out, I love competing against him because every play you’ve got to be ready. I love it. This is my third year now, so we’ve had a lot of battles.”

Advantage Dosunmu after this latest one.

But it wouldn’t be a typical Bulls first half if they didn’t dig themselves a hole to have to climb out of. So that’s exactly what they did, falling behind by 13 points in the opening quarter after a Bogdan Bogdanovic three-pointer with 2:20 left in that first.

Then came the grind back, led by Dosunmu, who played like there were two of him out there. Not only did Dosunmu go 5-of-6 from the field in scoring 13 points in that second quarter, but continued his hot three-point shooting by connecting on all three treys he took.

Just like that a 13-point deficit was a one-point lead at the half led by Dosunmu’s 17, as well as three assists and a plus/minus of plus-8.

The Bulls finally took control in the second half, specifically in the final six minutes of the fourth.

Seven more points on 3-of-4 shooting from Dosunmu, and then Donovan went to the bullpen and signaled for his closers. Coby White and DeMar DeRozan finished things off, giving the Bulls the 2-1 record on the four-game road trip.

“I thought Ayo’s pace and tempo in that second quarter really got us back into the game pretty quickly,” Donovan added. “I think one of the reasons he’s shot the ball so well is he’s invested a lot of time into it, and the other part of it is he’s always ready to make the next play.

“He did a lot of really good things out there.”

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