Atlanta (39-36) at Chicago (36-39)
When: Saturday, April 1st 2017
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
Time: 5:05 ET | TV: NBA TV
The Chicago Bulls look to continue their climb toward a playoff berth when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday at United Center. Chicago, who sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, have won their last two against teams ahead of them in the standings. The Bulls head into play on Friday one game out of eighth place in the East and only three games behind the Hawks after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago hits the road for four straight after Saturday but will not play any of its final six games against teams with winning records. Chicago is still missing star shooting guard Dwyane Wade (elbow), but power forward Nikola Mirotic is doing all he can to pick up the slack. Mirotic bounced in and out of coach Fred Hoiberg’s rotation this season but is starting of late and is averaging 24.8 points over the last four games while going a sizzling 20-of-32 from 3-point range. Small forward Jimmy Butler is averaging 26.8 points on 55.6% shooting and 9.6 assists over the last five games.
Atlanta had a hold on the No. 5 spot in the East and was bidding for No. 4 before a seven-game losing streak threatened to knock them out of the top eight altogether, but wins over the lowly Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers put them back in the running for fifth. Atlanta is just a half a game behind Milwaukee for that spot and 2.5 clear of Miami for seventh. All-Star power forward Paul Millsap (knee synovitis) sat out the last seven games and is not expected to return this weekend, but Dwight Howard has been holding the fort. The former All-Star recorded a double-double in each of the last two games and was excellent at Philadelphia on Wednesday with 22 points and 20 rebounds while going 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. Small forward Kent Bazemore (bruised knee) returned from a five-game absence on Wednesday and recorded 19 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Atlanta has won each of the first three meetings this season by an average of 7.3 points.
The Bulls are playing a little better than Atlanta right now, and the Hawks are 1-8 against the spread in their last nine versus teams with losing records. Still, Atlanta has covered six of the last seven meetings with Chicago. I’m taking the points in what should be a close game.
Pick: Hawks +4.5
HEAD TO HEAD
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