The Atlanta Hawks took it on the chin on Wednesday in Detroit and that was a bit of a surprise. Prior to that decisive loss, Atlanta was playing some of the team’s best basketball of the season and, less than 48 hours later, the Hawks will have the opportunity to recapture that when they take the floor against the Chicago Bulls.
Chicago arrives at Philips Arena as the first opponent in a rare home back-to-back set and the Bulls are an interesting team. At the moment, Jimmy Butler’s squad owns a sub-.500 record, but it has been an up and down campaign and Chicago does boast considerable talent. Butler will start for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game after a fantastic first half and, even at advanced age, Dwyane Wade is a threat to go off at any moment.
With all of that said, the Bulls are always quite flawed. Rajon Rondo is a virtual non-factor at this point and Michael Carter-Williams now operates in the starting point guard role. Chicago is also shooting-challenged, with its best players struggling to create space and its shooters (Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic) unable to lock down on the defensive end.
Fred Hoiberg’s team does rebound at a high level, though, and that will put pressure on Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap and company. Chicago’s Taj Gibson is a game-time decision with injury and that is something to monitor, but on the Atlanta side, Mike Muscala has already been ruled out and that paves the way for more small-ball and/or playing time for Kris Humphries and Mike Scott.
After a game in which they were trashed on the boards, battling in that department will be crucial for the Hawks. Beyond that, though, this is a relatively easy defensive match-up for Atlanta and Chicago’s defense is nothing to be afraid of as currently constructed. Dennis Schröder’s performance against Carter-Williams and Rondo will be a potential swing point and it would be nice to see him play well.
At the time of this post, the Hawks are listed as 5.5-point favorites in tonight’s game. In addition, FiveThirtyEight installs Atlanta with a 66 percent chance to claim victory and this is a spot in which anything short of a win would be a disappointment. Stay tuned throughout the day for updates from Philips Arena.
Game Date/Time: Friday, January 20, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM