Some things to know in advance of Wednesday’s Hawks-Bulls Play-In game

For the third consecutive year, the Hawks find their postseason hopes first hinging on how they perform in the Play-In Tournament.

For the second time in three years, the Hawks will play in the 9-versus-10 game. In 2022, the Hawks advanced out of the 9-10 game on their way to securing the No. 8 seed before losing to No. 1-seed Miami in the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. A year ago, the Hawks advanced out of the Play-In as the No. 7 seed, but lost to No. 2 Boston in the first round.

This year, the No 10-seed Hawks will look to go beyond the first round, but are entering Wednesday’s game undermanned in the front court and with some players nursing some bumps and bruises.

Here are some things to know heading into Wednesday’s Play-In game at the Bulls.

Who’s available?

The Hawks could have 12 players available for the game. Because of injuries and ineligibility for the playoffs, the Hawks have six players unavailable for the matchup against the Bulls.

Saddiq Bey, Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu all have long-term injuries that will keep them out for at minimum the next week. Bey tore the ACL in his left knee and had surgery to repair it in March and likely won’t return for at least a year. Johnson sprained his ankle and the team announced April 11 that it would re-evaluate in three weeks. Okongwu underwent a procedure to address inflammation in his toe, and the team also said April 11 that it would re-evaluate him in four weeks.

The team’s two-way players will not be able to play Wednesday. So, Vit Krejci, Seth Lundy and Dylan Windler will not be available.

Krejci provided critical minutes for the team in Johnson’s and Trae Young’s absence, but the team opted not to sign him at the end of the regular season. The Hawks would have needed to waive someone to open a roster spot to make a Krejci signing possible, but they stood pat and kept the roster as is.

“Really, it’s no different than throughout the course of the year,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. “Just the guys that you do have, have to be ready to go and have to play at a high level and you can’t lament those things.”

Here’s who is available to play:

Trae Young

Dejounte Murray

Bogdan Bogdanovic

De’Andre Hunter

Clint Capela

Garrison Mathews

Bruno Fernando

Kobe Bufkin

Mo Gueye

AJ Griffin

Wesley Matthews

Trent Forrest

Matchups to watch

The Hawks have to play collectively on both ends of the floor to have a chance to advance to a second opportunity to make it in the playoffs. But a couple of matchups could swing the pendulum, depending upon who comes out on top.

One big one includes Trae Young against Bulls third-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, who is day-to-day with a quad injury. The Bulls guard has put up strong defense on Young during his career. During the 2021-22 season, Dosunmu held Young to 11-of-30 (36.7%) overall shooting. This season, in two games, Dosunmu held Young to 44.4% overall shooting in two games.

On the offensive end, Dosunmu has burned the Hawks this season, averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and five steals per game while making 55.6% of his overall attempts and 50% of his 3-point shots.

Another matchup includes De’Andre Hunter against DeMar DeRozan.

“He’s been a great player in this league for a long time, and we have a ton of respect for him,” Snyder said. “He puts a lot of pressure on you defensively because he can do a lot of things.”

While the Hawks want multiple guys ready to defend him because of effectiveness in the pick and roll, in the post and in isolation situations. But Hunter likely will be DeRozan’s primary defender.

What happens next?

If the Hawks down the Bulls on Wednesday night, they would head either to Philadelphia to face the 76ers or to Miami to face the Heat.

The Hawks beat the Heat in the Play-In game to secure the seventh seed last year. But the Hawks finished this regular season losing three of their four games against them.

They finished the regular season 2-2 against the Sixers, two of which happened without Joel Embiid in the rotation. But the Sixers have Embiid back after he had knee surgery this season.

But if the Hawks make it out of the second Play-In game, they would enter the playoffs as the eighth seed and face the Celtics. It would mark the second consecutive season that the Hawks would battle the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, after losing to them in six games last year.

Before they worry about all of that, the Hawks tip off against the Bulls at the United Center at 9:30 p.m.