Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks: Game Outlook for Friday Night in Gucciville

Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls

Jan 17, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) makes a three point shot while defended by Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) during the fourth quarter of the game at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are bad. We know that. The Atlanta Hawks — despite trading away Bulls Legend Kyle Korver — are not. Oh, and the Bulls have lost seven of the last eight times they’ve faced Atlanta. Having said that, here’s Friday night’s preview!

The last time the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, Joakim Noah was an MVP candidate and a member of the organization in April 2014.

Man, those were the days, right?

Since then, Noah’s game and health fell off in Chicago (along with Derrick Rose), and now plays with the Knicks. Oh, and the Bulls are eighth in the East standings and going nowhere in the present day, despite the valiant efforts of Jimmy Butler.

The Hawks have dominated the Bulls in the last seven meetings, winning six of them. After losing and getting swept this season by the Dallas Mavericks (yikes, that’s bad), the Bulls head to Atlanta to face the Hawks, who are as hot as any team in the league at the current juncture.

Here’s Friday’s preview for the Bulls’ second meeting with the Hawks this season.

Paul Millsap is a nightmare matchup for the Chicago Bulls.

Jan 4, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic center Bismack Biyombo (11) defends during the second half at Amway Center. Atlanta Hawks defeated the Orlando Magic 111-92. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Player to watch for Atlanta: Paul Millsap

You may not watch the Hawks play that much, which means you probably don’t see Paul Millsap play at all.

That’s a shame. He’s awesome.

This season, Millsap is one of just seven players to be averaging 17+ points, 8+ rebounds, 3+ assists and at least one steal per game. The other six guys: Russell Westbrook, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and the injured Blake Griffin.

That’s a fantastic list of players.

Dennis Schroder gets the attention on the floor as the primary ball-handler these days after Jeff Teague was sent to his hometown of Indianapolis to join the Pacers in the offseason, but Millsap is the best player on the Hawks roster. That’s why so many teams were linked to him after the Korver deal. He’s a valuable player on both ends of the floor.

Player to watch for the Bulls: Dwyane Wade

It’s no secret that Dwyane Wade‘s game has been plummeting since his hot start to his first season in Chicago.

Wade’s numbers continue to tumble on the floor, and his back-to-back numbers aren’t much better at all. The issue is, Wade is already slated to play in this upcoming back-to-back for the Bulls against the Hawks and the Sacramento Kings this weekend.

He’s had a couple days off between the Mavericks debacle and Friday’s game, so Bulls fans could be tuning into the good version of Wade.

With two days rest this season (nine games), Wade is scoring 20.6 points on 44.6 percent shooting, so some offensive help for Butler would be useful.

Projected starting lineups for Friday’s game

“We’ll see, but today was a good day,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said to reporters on Thursday after practice about his status for Friday’s game. Gibson didn’t play in the Dallas game due to a sore ankle. It was the same ankle he had surgery on two summers ago.

If Gibson doesn’t start or play again on Friday, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg could look to starting Paul Zipser once again and have Nikola Mirotic — who returned on Tuesday after a battle with strep throat — come off the bench with Rajon Rondo and Doug McDermott.

Assuming Gibson does decide to give it a go on Friday night, here’s a projected look at the starting lineups for the game, starting with the Bulls.20

Projected starting lineup for the Chicago Bulls:

Michael Carter-Williams, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson (if he’s a scratch, Paul Zipser) and Robin Lopez

Projected starting lineup for the Atlanta Hawks:

Dennis Schroder, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha and Paul Millsap

Prediction

Once again, the Hawks have beaten the Bulls six of the last seven times they’ve taken the floor against one another.

I don’t think the trend ends on Friday.

The Hawks have lost just twice since Dec. 28 and sitting among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, despite trading Kyle Korver away to the East’s best team. They current sit two games behind Boston for third and four games behind Toronto for second in the East.

Nothing about the Bulls right now says they win, other than they’ve beaten some good teams this season. (They’ve also been swept by the Dallas Mavericks, so there’s that, too.)

Atlanta beats the Bulls once again, 111-101.

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