If two Eastern Conference teams not named Miami or Indiana play while an NFL playoff game is on, does it make a sound?
Either way, tonight the Bulls play host to the Atlanta Hawks, who after another pectoral injury to Al Horford are now forced to face a second recent season without their best player, a feeling the Bulls know all too well. Speaking of injuries, just as the Bulls got their normal crew back together in the lineup, Carlos Boozer will miss his first game of the season with a knee injury. That means we’ll see a Hinrich-Butler-Deng-Gibson-Noah starting lineup and likely heavy minutes for that group, as Gibson starting means Tom Thibodeau won’t be able to stagger his big man minutes as he usually does. Unless Taj plays all 48 (don’t rule it out…), either Erik Murphy will see rotation minutes or Thibs will resort to a tactic he rarely deploys: going small with Deng at power forward.
This the third of four consecutive home games for Chicago, with only a road game in the Bulls-friendly confines of Milwaukee before another pair of home games. Meanwhile, Atlanta played last night at home and lost a heartbreaker, giving up a last second three pointer to Andre Iguodala and falling by a single point to the red-hot Warriors. The Hawks started out 2-0 on second legs of a back-to-back, but have gone 0-5 since. The last three losses have come in Washington, New York and Boston, all teams with similar resumés as Chicago, so even without Boozer, this looks to be a very winnable game for the Bulls against Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and company.
The matchup that will decide this game though is between players traded for each other: Atlanta’s record-setting shooter Kyle Korver against the Bulls’ Traded Player Exception. Sigh. Enjoy the game everybody, whichever one it may be.