A frenetic race for positioning in the Eastern Conference play-in race continues Tuesday as the Chicago Bulls hosts the Atlanta Hawks.
With four regular season games remaining, Atlanta (39-39) holds possession of the eighth place in the East with 10th-place Chicago one game behind.
The Bulls (38-40) is four games clear of its nearest pursuer for the final spot in the play-in, but not yet officially part of the field. Chicago can join the crowd with one more victory or one Orlando Magic loss.
A win against the Hawks would be especially meaningful, as the Bulls would secure the season-series tiebreaker over Atlanta.
After absorbing a 123-122 overtime loss at Atlanta on Dec. 11, the Bulls has won the past two meetings between the teams but haven’t faced the Hawks since a 111-100 home win on Jan. 23.
Bulls leading scorer DeMar DeRozan has paced the team offensively in the three games, averaging 29.3 points, while Chicago’s Zach LaVine enters on a streak of scoring at least 20 points in his past nine meetings with the Hawks.
On Sunday, the duo propelled Chicago to a 75-39 surge in the second half, keying a 128-107 victory against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. LaVine scored 36 points and DeRozan chipped in 31 as the Bulls won for the fourth time in six games.
Chicago committed only three turnovers to match a franchise record. On the other side of the ball, the team has scored 144 points off turnovers over the past five games.
“We’re doing a better job of spacing the floor,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “There were times where we got steals and we’d just run to the basket. We have to understand giving each other room and space to breathe and to play.
“Guys are doing a good job of getting out wide and knowing we either have to run to the 3-point line if we don’t have an advantage or to the rim to get layups.”
Atlanta is aiming to secure consecutive wins for the first time since March 8 and 10 after defeating visiting Dallas 132-130 in overtime on Sunday.
Trae Young swished a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds to go and exhaled when the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic missed a would-be, game-winning 3-pointer.
“I think every game brings some type of adversity,” Young said. “Even if you win the game by 30 or 40, beginning the game it’s a battle, so I think every game brings a different challenge. Tonight, we just (were) playing against two guys (Doncic and Kyrie Irving) who can really, I mean, beat a team by themselves that they get going.”
Young scored 24 points for the Hawks, one off Dejounte Murray’s team high. John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic both drilled four 3-pointers for Atlanta. Young is questionable for Tuesday with a non-COVID illness, while De’Andre Hunter (knee) has been ruled out.
Collins has persevered through season-long struggles from deep to shoot 39.4 per cent from long range in his past eight games.
“It’s been up and down for sure,” Collins said.
De’Andre Hunter has missed the past two games for Atlanta with a bone bruise and muscle strain in his left knee.
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