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Bulls vs. Hawks game preview, injury report, lineup: Tank-battle tonight, and Bulls are dangerously favored

The Bulls Really Need to Lose This One

Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

[We have game preview spots available! -yfbb]

This is the most important game of the year thus far for the Chicago Bulls.

So far, the Bulls have done a glorious job of tanking and their efforts have been rewarded with an 0-3 record. But other teams around the NBA are tanking hard too, and the New York Knicks own the same record as the Bulls, while the Dallas Mavericks actually have one more loss than the Bulls in the ‘L’ column (although they did win a game last night against Memphis).

Enter the Atlanta Hawks; another NBA bottom-feeding team competing for the coveted No. 1 pick in the top-heavy 2018 NBA draft. If the Bulls want that pick, finding ways to lose to teams like the Hawks is imperative.

Inconveniently, the Hawks ruled point guard Dennis Schroder out tonight because of an ankle injury, so he can’t pick the Bulls apart in the pick and roll like he did in the four meetings between the two teams last season. That puts a real damper on the Bulls prospects of losing this game.

So, instead of doing keys for the Bulls to win this game, I’m going to throw a curveball at you and do keys for the Bulls to lose the game. Enjoy, but first some formalities.

Chicago Bulls (0-3) vs. Atlanta Hawks (1-3)

7:00 p.m., WGN

United Center; Chicago

Injury Report:

Chicago Bulls

  • Kris Dunn practiced Wednesday but will not play against the Hawks tonight.
  • Paul Zipser is a game-time decision after he suffered a knee contusion in practice.

Hawks

  • Big man Ersan Ilyasova is questionable for the game tonight with a knee strain.
  • Point guard Dennis Schroder will not make the trip out to Chicago because of an ankle injury.
  • DeAndre Bembry will miss 4-6 weeks after fracturing his right wrist last week.
  • Center Miles Plumlee will miss the game tonight because of a strained right quad he suffered on Oct. 1.

“Keys” to the Game

Let The Hawks Feast on Turnovers

It’s easy to write this as a catch-all reason for why any team will or did lose.

However, it’s particularly relevant to the game tonight. The Atlanta Hawks have forced an average of 18.3 turnovers per game which is the fifth-best rate in the NBA this season. They are also eighth in the NBA in points off turnovers with 19 per game.

So, who on the Bulls is a turnover waiting to happen? Jerian Grant and his 19.4 percent turnover rate of course. The Bulls should play Grant 40 minutes tonight while giving him most of the ball handling duties to maximize the Hawk’s opportunities to force turnovers.

Second Unit With No Starters

The Bulls starters have actually been competitive at the beginning of games. However, when that second unit comes in the Bulls run into some trouble.

On Tuesday night against Cleveland, a lineup consisting of Kay Felder, Denzel Valentine, Cristiano Felicio, David Nwaba, and Quincy Pondexter were a -6 in just over two minutes before Hoiberg re-instilled Lauri Markkanen back into the game.

Against San Antonio, that same lineup (with Paul Zipser and minus Pondexter) were a -5 in less than two minutes. In the opener against Toronto, the same culprits (this time add in Arcidiacono and subtract Felder) were -13 in 2:30.

The constant? Hoiberg threw bench lineups in at the beginning of the second quarter and the opposition quickly went on a run. Pull the same stunt against Atlanta tonight and the Bulls may dig themselves a hole too deep to climb out.

Rest Markkanen

After a full summer workload of European competition and after struggling with a back issue during training camp, Tom Thibodeau Fred Hoiberg has played Markkanen 34.1 minutes per game.

A lot of that is out of necessity. In case you live under a rock, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic tried to kill each other so there aren’t too many other options for the Bulls at the power forward position.

But what if, just for this game since losing is so important, Hoiberg plays Markkanen for 25 minutes instead of his standard 34.1? It’ll help the Bulls lose and give the rookie an opportunity for some rest. Kills two birds with one stone.

***

Before everybody comes at me, this post is largely facetious and is an attempt by me to be funny. Yes, I think the Bulls need to lose a lot of games this season (and a few seasons beyond this one), to make the rebuilding process as foolproof as possible for the guys upstairs. But no, I don’t consider what I wrote to be serious suggestions.