Hawks, Bulls to begin back-to-back set
Two rebuilding Eastern Conference clubs begin a quick home-and-home series when the Chicago Bulls visit the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
The two young teams take a day off and play again on Sunday in Chicago.
These will be the final two meetings of the season between the clubs. They have split the first two matchups, with the Bulls winning 97-85 on Oct. 27 in Atlanta and the Hawks winning 121-101 on Jan. 23 in Chicago.
Chicago, which swept the series last season, has won the last three meetings in Atlanta.
Atlanta has won two of its past three games. The Bulls, after Wednesday's 109-107 win over Memphis, have won four of their last five.
Atlanta continues to get a high-level of play from rookie point guard Trae Young and second-year forward John Collins.
Young has put together back-to-back 36-point games, doing it on Feb. 25 at Houston and again on Wednesday in Atlanta's 131-123 overtime win against Minnesota. Young has scored 30-plus points in five games and is the only rookie in the Eastern Conference with multiple 30-point efforts. He has scored 30 in three of the last four games and is averaging 31.3 since the All-Star break.
Young's confidence at shooting 3-pointers has grown, too. He has made at least four in 12 games, the most among first-year players. He's become adept at using his quickness to get past defenders and attack the basket, often drawing a foul. On Wednesday he was 16 of 17 from the line.
Collins had 34 points against the Timberwolves, one shy of the career high that he has achieved twice this season. Since the All-Star break, Collins is averaging 23.0 points. Collins has a team-best 24 double-doubles, leading the 2017 NBA draft class in that category.
Vince Carter, in his 21st NBA season, has been impressed by what he's seen from Young and Collins.
"It's just great to see two guys having wonderful games like that while still making plays for others," Carter said. "That's what it's all about."
The Bulls are learning, too. They took another positive step Wednesday when they held on late to win on the road.
The Hawks have had trouble stopping Chicago's Zach LaVine, who has put up 27 and 23 points against them this season. LaVine scored 30 points on Wednesday and became the fifth Bull since 2000-01 to have at least 40 games with 20-plus points.
But the Chicago player who has been hottest lately is Lauri Markkanen. He scored 22 against the Grizzlies, giving him 10 straight games with at least 20 points.
He has posted a double-double in a career-best four straight games. He had a double-double in eight of 10 games in February, narrowly missing in the other two games, when he had nine rebounds.
Forward Otto Porter, who has been dealing with a left shoulder strain, returned to the lineup on Wednesday and scored 20 points.
"We're just learning and we're trying to get wins," Porter said. "We're trying to build for the future and trying to start something new."
Bulls guard Kris Dunn returned Wednesday after he missed time with a migraine. Atlanta forward Miles Plumlee continues to be sidelined with left knee pain.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019