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Preview: Hawks host Bulls in suddenly intriguing showdown

The Bulls might be... good?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

At one point this season, the Chicago Bulls were 3-20 and no one was surprised. Since then, however, the team many (including myself) projected to be the worst in the NBA this season has been red-hot, posting a 14-8 record and killing its own potential when it comes to the upcoming draft lottery. With that as the backdrop, the Bulls will invade Philips Arena on Saturday evening and the Atlanta Hawks, also playing improved basketball, are up to the challenge.

The Hawks still own a dismal 13-31 overall record but, in recent days, the team has played quite well at home. After back-to-back wins over the Spurs and Pelicans, Atlanta is in the midst of a home stretch with five wins in six outings and, while that success has not translated on the road, this particular contest comes within the friendly confines of home.

From a match-up perspective, the Bulls are not a team that is overly terrifying and that is doubly the case in the presumed absence of Kris Dunn. The talented point guard suffered a concussion in the team’s last outing and is not expected to play here, opening the door even wider for the Hawks to take advantage in the form of a potential win.

Beyond that, Lauri Markkanen and John Collins will face off (at least at times) in a battle of impressive rookie big men. Markkanen, who was the No. 7 overall pick, set an NBA record for the fastest climb to 100 career three-pointers and, while there are still questions about his game, it will be interesting to see how the Hawks handle his unique perimeter skill set for a player of his size.

Las Vegas installs the Hawks as two-point favorites in this contest, providing some optimism from the “wise guys in the desert.” Still, the home team will need to play well to overcome a suddenly solid opponent and, if nothing else, this is a game worth closely monitoring (at an odd tip-off time) on Saturday. Stay tuned.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Saturday, January 20, 5:00 p.m. ET

Location: Philips Arena

TV: Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass

Radio: 92.9 The Game (Atlanta)