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Hawks vs. Bulls preview: A pivotal game for both teams

Both teams are in the middle of the playoff race for this Saturday evening match-up in Chicago.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks travel to Chicago to play the Bulls on Saturday evening in a matchup with big playoff implications. Atlanta is currently in sixth place, a half-game behind the Milwaukee Bucks, after Friday night’s games. The Bulls are currently a half-game behind the Indiana Pacers for the final playoff spot. While these two teams find themselves in slightly different spots in the standings, both need a win tonight to solidify their playoff hopes.

Until recently, this would have looked like a highly winnable game for the Hawks. After Paul Millsap’s injury and an extended losing streak, though, Atlanta looks much more vulnerable. Millsap won’t be playing in Chicago (neither will Thabo Sefolosha), but the Hawks’ consecutive wins against the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers gives at least a little reason for optimism. However, FiveThirtyEight gives Chicago a 71% chance of winning.

Fortunately for Atlanta, the Bulls have been woefully inconsistent all season, a trend that is also reflected in their 5-5 record over their last 10 games. Any team with Jimmy Butler on it is always a threat — especially at home — but the Hawks are facing a game that is at least winnable tonight. If they can continue to build on winning performances against Phoenix and Philadelphia, this game should be within reach.

Since the Bucks don’t play tonight, this is a good opportunity for the Hawks to draw back even in the race for fifth place. Conversely though, a loss against Chicago would be devastating for the team’s chances of moving back up in the standings. There are only a handful of games left on the schedule after tonight, and even a lead as small as one game will be difficult to make up. In any case, this should be an entertaining game to watch as the Hawks head north for this one.

Game Info:

Game Date/Time: Saturday, April 1, 5:00 p.m. ET

Location: United Center, Chicago, IL

TV: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: 92.9 “The Game” FM