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[April 01, 2017]
The Atlanta Hawks finally woke
up, realized they were letting their playoff chances slip away and
turned up the defense en route to two wins. The Hawks will try to
make it three straight on Saturday at the expense of the host
Chicago Bulls, who sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference but
won their last two against teams ahead of them in the standings.
Atlanta had a grip on the No. 5 spot and was bidding for No. 4
before a seven-game slide threatened to knock them out of the top
eight altogether, but wins over the lowly Phoenix Suns and
Philadelphia 76ers put it back in the running for fifth. "I thought
the level of play was good in those other games," Hawks center
Dwight Howard told reporters in reference to the losing streak. ďWe
just didnít get over the hump. Itís something we didnít control.
These last two games we did a better job. We can still get better
despite whoever is in the lineup." The Bulls head into play on
Friday one game out of eighth place in the East and only three games
behind the Hawks after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks and
Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago hits the road for four straight after
Saturday but will not play any of its final six games against teams
with winning records.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, NBATV, FSN Southeast (Atlanta), WGN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE HAWKS (39-36): All-Star power forward Paul Millsap (knee
synovitis) sat out the last seven games and is not expected to
return this weekend, but Howard is trying to pick up the slack. The
former All-Star recorded a double-double in each of the last two
games and shined at Philadelphia on Wednesday with 22 points and 20
rebounds while going 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. "Obviously,
Dwight Howard was dominant rebounding, scoring, making free throws,"
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. "He just did a lot of
things really, really well and carried us."
[to top of second column]
ABOUT THE BULLS (36-39): Chicago is missing its own
star player - shooting guard Dwyane Wade (elbow) - but barely
notices with power forward Nikola Mirotic picking up his level of
play. The 26-year-old bounced in and out of coach Fred Hoiberg's
rotation this season but is starting of late and is averaging 24.8
points over the last four games while going 20-of-32 from 3-point
range. "I feel that it's my time," Mirotic told reporters. "It's my
time to make things right. I just want to enjoy the basketball. I
just want to be happy right now. I'm very happy to be here. I want
to make an impact at the end of the season. I want to be in the
playoffs, that's all."
1. Bulls SF Jimmy Butler is averaging 26.8 points on 55.6 percent
shooting and 9.6 assists over the last five games.
2. Hawks SF Kent Bazemore (bruised knee) returned from a five-game
absence on Wednesday and delivered 19 points in 20 minutes off the
3. Atlanta took each of the first three meetings this season by an
average of 7.3 points.
PREDICTION: Bulls 106, Hawks 100
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