GAME NIGHT FROM ATLANTA: Bulls (17-45, 10-21 on the road) at Atlanta (21-41, 11-18 at home)
TV: NBC Sports Chicago: Andy Demetra, Stacey King. 6:30CT tipoff.
RADIO: 670 The Score: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington, Steve Kashul. 6:15 CT pre.
LEADING SCORERS: Bulls: LaVine: 23 ppg. Atlanta: Collins: 19ppg.
LEADING REBOUNDERS: Bulls: Markkanen: 9 per. Atlanta: Collins: 9 per.
LEADING ASSISTS: Bulls: Dunn: 6 per. Atlanta: Young: 7 per.
CCI PREVIEW: There is a really nice vibe around the Bulls these days. The spirits are up as is offensive scoring. The Bulls averaged a whopping 116 points per game in February. With the addition of Otto Porter Jr., the Bulls spacing has improved as have open lanes to the basket. Lauri Markkanen’s aggressiveness taking it to the rim is apparent. His free throw attempts are up as is his free throw percentage standing at 87%.
Tonight, the Bulls and Hawks will showcase some of the brightest up and coming stars in the Association. The Bulls core group of Kris Dunn (24) Zach LaVine ( 23), Markkanen (21) and Porter (25) have terrific upsides. Wendell Carter Jr., currently sidelined with a thumb injury, is a huge piece as the Bulls move forward and he’s just 19 years young. Atlanta’s Trae Young (20) and John Collins (21) are going to be big-time players. Kevin Huerter(20) can flat out shoot the ball. Young is averaging 30 points and 9 assists the last five games, shooting over 50% from three point range in that span. Young has been magnificent. He’s registered back-to-back 36 point games. Young is the first NBA rookie to score 33+ points with 10+ assists while earning 13+ free throw attempts since Michael Jordan in 1985. He also became the first rook with back-to-back 35-point games since Allen Iverson in 1997.
Collins had a career-high 35 points against the Bulls in Atlanta’s win over the Bulls at the United Center. The Hawks are showing signs of turning the corner and their future is bright. They are the NBA’s #1 offensive rebounding team since December 1. I’m expecting a very competitive ballgame tonight.
CCI 24 SECONDS NBA NEWS AND NOTES
Houston 121, Miami 118: Slump? What slump? James Harden looks good to me. He ripped the nets for 58 points, 10 assists in a comeback win over the Heat. Harden went 18-18 from the line. Total number of 55 points, 10 assists games: Harden with 3. MJ, Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson each with one. The Heat blew a 21-point third quarter advantage.
Orlando 103, Golden State 96: Aaron Gordon with a 22-15 game. The Warriors lost back-to-back road games in Miami and Orlando.
Indiana 122, Minnesota 115: KAT was on fire: 42-17-4 but the T-Wolves couldn’t overcome Bojan Bogdanovic’s 37-7-4 game. The Pacers blocked 11 shots - six by Myles Turner. Minnesota missed 11 free throws and committed 16 turnovers.
Cleveland 125, New York Knicks 118: The Cavs scored 40 fourth quarter points. Cleveland had four players score 20 or more points.
Philadelphia 108, Oklahoma City 104: The Sixers snapped a 19-game losing streak to the Thunder. Ben Simmons 11-13-11. Tobias Harris added 32. Russell Westbrook posted 23-11-11 numbers but was 1-9 from three point range.
Utah 111, Denver 104: The banged up Jazz surprised the red hot Nuggets ending Denver’s nine-game home winning streak. Kyle Korver drilled six three point field goals for Utah.