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Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls: Line-ups, preview and prediction, 10/26/17

The short-handed Atlanta Hawks look to wrap up their five-game road trip on a positive note Thursday night when they face the winless Chicago Bulls.


Atlanta (1-3) will be without starting guard and leading scorer Dennis Schroder, who sprained his left ankle driving to the basket in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday. The Hawks were also without starting forward Ersan Ilyasova in Monday night’s 104-93 loss to the Miami Heat, and he is day-to-day with a strained left knee.

Both replacement starters, Mike Muscala at forward and Malcolm Delaney at guard, struggled to make offensive contributions as they were a combined 5-for-14. Delaney had issues slowing down the Heat’s starting backcourt of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters as the Hawks were outscored by 16 when the second-year guard was on the floor.

Chicago is trying to avoid its first 0-4 start since 2007/08, but the young Bulls put forth their best effort of the season in a 119-112 defeat at Cleveland on Tuesday night. Justin Holiday scored 25 points to pace seven players in double figures as Chicago hit a season-high 17 3-pointers and also shot a season-best 47.7 percent.

Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen continues to impress after making five of eight attempts from beyond the arc and scoring a season-high 19 points. The seventh-overall pick has scored in double figures in all three games for the Bulls and is shooting better from 3-point range (45.5 percent) than overall (44.7).

Three keys to the game

Cut down on the turnovers - Atlanta not only missed Schroder's scoring Monday night in Miam; his absence also showed how important he is to directing the offense. The Hawks committed 21 turnovers against the Heat after totaling 42 in their first three games. While they nearly forced the Heat into an equal amount of turnovers (19), the Hawks also took nine less shots. Atlanta needs to take some of the playmaking burden off swingman Taurean Prince, who had seven of those 21 miscues and only two assists.

Bombs away for the Bulls - After making just 18 of 60 from 3-point range in their first two games, the Bulls nearly matched that total on just 33 attempts against Cleveland. Justin Holiday was a key reason for the improvement as he hit four-of-nine from beyond the arc, but don't sleep on Denzel Valentine. Though he's run hot and cold from game to game, Valentine is 7-for-14 from 3-point range. Opponents have taken 145 3-pointers against the Hawks already, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Bulls to have another impressive performance.

Supersub John Collins - The Hawks rookie has recorded double-doubles in his last two games, totaling 28 points and 24 rebounds in 40 minutes. The 19th-overall pick isn't shy about shooting as he enters the game 19-for-36 (52.8 percent). Chicago has given up an average of 46.7 points in the paint, so look for the Hawks to give Collins a chance in the low post to do some damage.


Matchup to watch

Hawks PG Malcolm Delaney vs Bulls PG Jerian Grant - If he remains in the starting lineup, this will be just Delaney's fourth career NBA start, and while Grant isn't a household name, he had the type of performance in Tuesday's loss that Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg would take every game. 

Grant had 12 points and 10 assists, one off his career high, in recording his second career double-double. He also had six rebounds and just two turnovers and enters this game with a 2.75 assist-to-turnover ratio. Given how the Hawks offense is running through Prince more than Delaney, it becomes essential for him to stay in front of Grant defensively to remain on the court.

Atlanta Hawks projected starting lineup

PG - Malcolm Delaney | SG - Kent Bazemore | C - Dewayne Dedmon | SF - Taurean Green | PF - Mike Muscala

Chicago Bulls projected starting lineup

PG - Jerian Grant | SG - Paul Zipser | C - Robin Lopez | SF - Justin Holiday | PF - Lauri Markkanen

Fantasy tip

There isn't any one player who stands out historically for either team, so the play here should be Markkanen, who is making the most of his opportunity as a stretch four with Bobby Portis suspended and Nikola Mirotic sidelined with facial injuries from Portis punching him. In addition to his solid perimeter shooting, Markkanen is also averaging 9.3 rebounds.

Betting tip

With Schroder's absence, the betting money has moved the line from a pick 'em to the Bulls being favored by 2 1/2 points. It's still somewhat of a crapshoot considering Tuesday night was the first time Chicago entered the fourth quarter not trailing by double digits and young teams find ways to lose. So the better play here is taking the over of 199.5 points. Almost everyone on the Bulls has a green light to shoot from 3-point range, and equally important, the Hawks' defensive system will encourage those shots given how they like to pack it in. Chicago's interior defense is still a work in progress, and even without Schroder to penetrate into the paint, Atlanta should find offense there on the offensive glass.

Prediction

The Bulls will be more than happy to see Schroder in street clothes for this game since he averaged 22.8 points on 52.2 percent shooting and 6.0 assists in four games against them last season. That leaves Kent Bazemore as the team's primary backcourt scoring option, and he has struggled to deliver on that count, going 10 for 29 in the last two games. Atlanta's defensive strategy of packing it in and letting opponents shoot over the top also dovetails nicely with Chicago's new ball movement offense in its half-court sets. The Bulls have averaged 31 3-point attempts while the Hawks have seen opponents put up 36.3 shots per game from long range. After seeing high-caliber stretch four forwards in the first three games of his NBA career, Markkanen will have the advantage head-to-head versus Muscala. Look for the Bulls to finally break through in the win column with a 108-97 victory.

Television information

This game will be televised locally on WGN-TV and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off time is 8 p.m. EDT.

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    2. Bulls
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Chris Altruda

Chicago-based sportswriter and Brooklyn native who has no stomach lining left since his rooting interests are Marquette basketball, N.Y. Jets football and Ottawa Senators hockey. Also enjoys Premier League/Champions League/international soccer and the bloodletting known as playoff overtime hockey.

 

Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls: Line-ups, preview and prediction, 10/26/17

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