Atlanta Hawks: Hawks vs. Bulls Pre Game Report


The last time the Atlanta Hawks beat the 76ers, they rattled off six straight victories on their way to closing out 2015 at 7-1.  They took out the 76ers again on Thursday and are hoping that they can ride that momentum into a similar stretch of W’s as they host the Chicago Bulls on Nickelodeon Night at Philips Arena on Saturday.

The Hawks exercised some demons at the expense of the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.  It was the team’s second largest scoring output of the season (126) behind only a mid-December matchup with these same 76ers where they scored 127.  The team started out slow but got it going in the second quarter to take a 17 point lead into halftime.  Kent Bazemore had himself a night scoring 22 points in only 25 minutes of action to lead all scorers.  For Hawks’ fans, this was a game in which you could sit back, relax and enjoy the show as every player that dressed got into the action and scored at least one point.  No starter played more than 25 minutes so the team should be well rested for tonight’s game against the Bulls.

The Bulls have been on a tear since Christmas Day, going 7-1 during that stretch, with their only loss coming on the road against the Mavs.  Jimmy Butler has been all but unstoppable lately and is the key to this entire Bulls’ team.  If there were any questions about whose team this is, Butler has answered them all as he has solidified himself as the Bull’s best player, hands down.  No disrespect to Rose or Gasol, but without Butler, the Bulls might not be a playoff team.  The Bulls last played on Thursday night at home against the Celtics in a 101-92 win.  Butler scored 19 points to go along with 10 assists and 5 rebounds, but it was Pau Gasol’s turn to shine in that one as he hauled in 17 points and 18 rebounds in one of his best performances of the season.  While not the defensive juggernaut they have been over the last five years or so, with a one-two punch like Butler and Gasol and the role players they have in Rose (yes, he’s a role player on this team currently) and Gibson, the Bulls are going to be a tough out come playoff time.

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Tonight’s game will be the first of four meetings between these two Eastern Conference Contenders and will be a good measuring stick for how well they stack up against the Eastern Conference’s best.  The Bulls are currently second in the East with a game and a half lead over the Hawks (all in the loss column).  The East is anyone’s game at the moment but with the Cavs getting healthier and healthier, they might be too much for the teams behind them to catch.  The Hawks are completely healthy for the first time in a while which will be good for Coach Bud as he will finally have his full compliment of players at his disposal.  The team is well rested as mentioned above due to their drubbing of Philly on Thursday so tonight’s matchup is a must watch for Hawks’ fans.

Dec 15, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) has his shot blocked by Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) has his shot blocked by Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Key to the Game

REBOUNDING: There is no worse margin in the NBA in terms of rebounding than the Bulls and the Hawks.  Chicago ranks #1 in the league in total rebounding while the Hawks are tied with the Bucks as the league’s worst rebounding team.  It has been an Achilles’ heel of the Hawks for years but this year has been particularly bad.  Al Horford is having one of the worst rebounding years of his career, tied with last season oddly enough and while the extended range he’s providing on offense with his ability to stretch the floor is a positive, it has a negative effect on his rebounding.  He floats around the perimeter on offense too much and isn’t in the paint rebounding the ball like you would expect your center to do.  The addition of Tiago Splitter was supposed to help with that but he hasn’t been able to stay on the floor.  Gasol and Gibson are a great rebounding tandem and Butler rebounds well for his position.  The Hawks have got to get better on the glass if they want to make another run in the postseason.  I don’t expect the Hawks to win the battle on the glass tonight but they can’t be worst team in the league bad as it will be too much to overcome.

Projected Starting Lineups

Atlanta Hawks

  • PG: Jeff Teague
  • SG: Kyle Korver
  • SF: Kent Bazemore
  • PF: Paul Millsap
  • C: Al Horford

Notes: No injuries to report for the Hawks

Chicago Bulls

  • PG: Derrick Rose
  • SG: Jimmy Butler
  • SF: Nikola Mirotic
  • PF: Taj Gibson
  • C: Pau Gasol

Notes: Joakim Noah (shoulder) didn’t travel with the team to Chicago and will not play Saturday

Other News & Notes

  • The Hawks were 2-1 vs. the Bulls last season
  • With a W tonight, the Hawks could move to within a half game of second place in the East
  • Jimmy Butler is averaging career highs in Points (22) and Assists (4.1)
  • Kent Bazemore is averaging a career high in Points, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, FG%, 3PT% and FT%
  • Tonight’s game will be broadcast on Fox Sports South (TV) and 92.9 The Game (Radio)

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