Bulls-Hawks Preview

Atlanta Hawks Status Check:
Record: 4-1
Division: 2-0
Conference: 4-0
Road Record: 2-1
Streak: Won 1
Last game: 100-92 win over Miami
PPG: 99.2 (8th)
Opponents PPG: 87.6 (1st)
Offensive Rating: 111.1 (1st)
Defensive Rating: 98.1 (6th)
Pace: 89.3 (26th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .500 (12th)
Turnover Percentage: .119 (2nd)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .756 (9th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .292 (8th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .240 (8th)
Opp. eFG%: .465 (7th)
Opp. TO%:  .161 (7th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .208 (14th)
Leading scorer: Joe Johnson (17.2)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Atlanta Injury Report:
Zaza Pachulia: Day-to-day
Kirk Hinrich: Out (shoulder)

The Atlanta Hawks come into the United Center flying high after they handed Miami its first loss of the season. The Bulls are coming into tonight feeling good as well. Chicago dominated the Grizzlies last time out, winning by 40.

Atlanta (4-1) got a blast from the past to help them past the Heat; Tracy McGrady came off the bench to score 16 points (5-8 from the field, 3-3 from three), including two big threes in the final quarter.

The biggest thing the Hawks did against the Heat was holding onto the ball, which slowed down Miami’s transition game. According to ESPN Stats and Information, “in its first five games Miami scored 35.7 percent of its transition points directly off “live-ball” turnovers. On Monday only one of the Heat’s 13 transition plays resulted from a “live-ball” turnover, and they scored just one point on that play.”

Miami only scored ten total fast break points against the Hawks, after averaging 25.4 in their first five games.

Chicago is currently third in the league in fast break points, averaging 21 per contest. This comes after the Bulls averaged just 13.4 fast break points last season, 19th best.

Atlanta also used a zone defense to switch up the pace and confuse the Miami offense.  But Atlanta’s offense was impressive as well, recording a 109.9 offensive efficiency, shooting 56.3 percent from downtown (or 84.4 effective field goal percent), while also scoring 50 points in the paint.

Atlanta did have a shooting weakness, 16-23 feet. The Hawks shot 4-26 from that range, but made up for it by shooting 35-56 (62.5 percent) from elsewhere. This was probably all “Josh Smith foot-on-the-line threes.” But in all seriousness, Smith was 1-7 from 16-23 feet. Shooters shoot!

Atlanta will have to slow down another hot team on the road if they want to get a win in Chicago. The Bulls have scored 108.7 in their last three games, all wins. Chicago has been getting production, but it hasn’t been consistent. Even the always reliable Luol Deng was less than great in the Bulls most recent outing (11 points).

Carlos Boozer’s production has fluctuated more than Kelly Clarkson’s weight. Boozer scored just 6 points and grabbed three boards in Chicago’s loss to the Warriors, but in his next game Boozington recorded six points and seven rebounds in the first quarter. He is coming of his best game of the season against the Grizzlies in which he scored 17 points (7-10 from the field) and secured 11 rebounds.

But with C.J. Watson likely out, and Rip Hamilton as a game-time decision, Chicago will need production from everyone. And it’s not likely to expect it from John Lucas even though he scored eight points in ten minutes against the Grizzlies. Some days the whole team is just feeling it.

The Bulls shortened bench may lead to some big minutes for the starters. But that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as the Bulls are well rested. Chicago hasn’t played since Sunday, in which many of their starters logged small minutes: Boozer (24 minutes), Joakim Noah (22) and Derrick Rose (26) got huge breaks, while Luol Deng played 32 minutes, which is basically a night off for him.

And the Hawks, even though they’re playing the second night of a back-to-back, didn’t run as much as most teams do against Miami. The Heat have been running all year, averaging 101.6 possessions and 109.6 points per game. But had just 92 possessions and scored only 92 points.

But tired legs may still be a problem for Atlanta. Al Horford played 39 minutes, Joe Johnson logged 38 and Jeff Teague played 35.

Tonight will also be the first time these two teams meet since their exciting playoff series last May. Chicago won the series 4-2, but it was not easy. Chicago was lucky to have Derrick Rose to bail them out. Rose averaged 29.8 points, 9.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds and saved two puppies per game.

The MVP had his hands full on the defensive side of the ball as well. Jeff Teague, who played just ten minutes in the six game series against the Magic, averaged 38.2 minutes against the Bulls. He scored 14.8 points (on 53.7 percent shooting) and averaged just 1.2 turnovers per game.

Teague is now the Hawks starting point guard. So far this season the two year pro has averaged 13.4 points and 4.8 assists. Teague is shooting 56.8 from the field and 57.1 percent from three.

Chicago and Atlanta will face each other again on Saturday in Philips Arena, which will be the final night of a back-to-back-to-back for the Hawks (Atlanta opens that string of games against Miami…Yikes). Chicago is looking to win at home, before they leave for a three game road-trip.

Last year’s series was fun, as were the three regular season matchups, which Chicago won two of. This game shouldn’t be any different, considering Chicago and Atlanta have similar stats this year. Atlanta is first in offensive rating at 111.1, while Chicago is right behind them in second place (110.9). In defensive rating it’s even closer; Atlanta has a 98.1 rating (6th place) and Chicago has a 98.6 (8th). And getting closer, both teams have the same exact opponent effective field goal percentage (.465).

Atlanta is also tied for first in turnover percentage (.119), while Chicago isn’t faring so well in that category, being 18th in the league at .145. One category the Bulls are beating Atlanta, and the rest of the league, is offensive rebounding percentage (.348).

Last year, the Bulls held the Hawks to 80.0 points per game in the regular season and 42.6 percent shooting.

Misleading stats of the night: Chicago has a 40-point average winning margin at home…so beware of the Atlanta.

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