The Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks are both going through a bit of a rebuilding phase after saying goodbye to stars over the summer, and both are dealing with some growing pains. The Bulls will try to record their first victory of the 2017-18 campaign when they host the Hawks on Thursday.
Both clubs enter Thursday’s showdown riding a three-game slide after Atlanta, which has the misfortune of beginning the season with five straight games on the road, followed up a win in the season opener at Dallas with three straight setbacks. “It’s going to be a tough year,” Hawks swingman Kent Bazemore told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “But if we can continue to plug away and keep the effort consistent and once the offense starts rolling around where we start making shots and start getting better shots through our offense, things will start to look up.” The Bulls came out strong against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and scored 68 points in the first half to take a lead into the break before being held to 44 points in the second half and suffering a 119-112 loss. Chicago is moving forward with a young team and is getting impressive results from rookie forward Lauri Markkanen, who is averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS Southeast (Atlanta), WGN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE HAWKS (1-3): Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder missed Monday’s 104-93 loss at Miami with an ankle injury and is not expected to return until the home opener on Friday, leaving the team without its most explosive scoring option at Chicago. The Hawks were led by Bazemore (20 points) and Taurean Prince (20) in a loss to the Miami Heat but battled to the end and was quick to point out that the team would be bringing that energy every night. “That is one thing you are not going to have to worry about with the Atlanta Hawks, is not bringing it every game,” Prince told reporters. “The competitiveness, the heart, that will be there every game.”
ABOUT THE BULLS (0-3): Markkanen scored a season-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the loss at Cleveland and knocked down 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. The 7-0 forward is 10-of-22 from beyond the arc on the season and scored in double figures in each of his first three games. “I thought our guys did an excellent job of finding him,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “We got him in transition several times out of our flow offense. ... He’s going to be a heck of a player, man.”
1. Bulls PG Kris Dunn (finger) could make his season debut on Thursday.
2. Hawks PF Ersan Ilyasova (knee) missed the last game and is questionable for Thursday.
3. Chicago snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 106-104 triumph at home on April 1.
PREDICTION: Bulls 103, Hawks 99