The Bulls’ backcourt thought it had Trae Young solved, then Friday came

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ATLANTA — For a time, it was the Trae Young formula.

Before the second half of the Bulls’ game Friday, it was all about physicality when taking on Young, the Hawks’ rookie point guard.

It was a game plan point guards Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono seemed to take great joy in when facing Young.

‘‘That’s what I tried to do in the Summer League with him, as well, but you can see his development, how well he’s playing,’’ Arcidiacono said Friday of Young. ‘‘He’s such a good passer. I think that’s what really separates him is his passing ability. He knows teams are trying to pressure him in ball screens. So being physical with him, not letting him get to his spots, not [allowing him to] make direct passes can help defend what he does.’’

Arcidiacono not only unleashed that game plan on Young in the Summer League, but he also did it the first time they squared off in the regular season. Dunn was out with a bad knee, so Arcidiacono got the call and did a number on Young in the Bulls’ 97-85 victory Oct. 27, holding him to 3-for-12 shooting and 13 points.

The Hawks got even with a 20-point blowout Jan. 23, but a healthy Dunn held Young to five points on 1-for-12 shooting. Young did have 12 assists.

What caught Arcidiacono’s eye, however, was that Young seemed to adjust to the physical play in the last month. Young entered the third game between the teams Friday fresh off a month in which he averaged 23.3 points and 9.3 assists.


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‘‘Oh, you can see it,’’ Arcidiacono said of Young adjusting to the physicality. ‘‘He’s been coached well, and he’s made the adjustment to the NBA game. He might have a smaller frame, but he’s been showing no fear taking [the ball] in the paint, and he’s drawing fouls. You can tell he’s different than earlier this season, and he’s doing a great job right now.’’

Dunn and Arcidiacono saw it firsthand. After playing Young well and holding him to 10 points on 3-for-9 shooting in the first half, things turned after halftime. Young scored 39 points on 14-for-24 shooting in the second half and the four overtimes and finished with 49 points and 16 assists.

Young’s performance came in a losing effort, however, as the Bulls earned a 168-161 victory.

Staying put

With center Robin Lopez no longer a candidate for a buyout after the deadline Friday, he can push forward with one fewer distraction for the rest of the season.

Not that it was much of a distraction for him in the first place, considering he didn’t ask for a buyout and the Bulls kept an open dialogue with him throughout.

‘‘A buyout was never talked about,’’ coach Jim Boylen said. ‘‘That’s what [the front office was] telling me. I was telling RoLo two weeks before the trade deadline that I cared for him and I would tell him if something was going on. There was never anything going on.’’

The Bulls have indicated they would like Lopez — who will be a free agent after the season — back in 2019-20, but it remains to be seen whether he would want to return in a lesser role.

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