Bulls game day
Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, 4 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Outlook: While the Hawks (13-31) are in a three-way battle for the NBA’s worst record with Orlando and Sacramento, they’ve also won three of their past four games. PG Dennis Schroder leads Atlanta with 20.1 points and 6.8 assists. After that, the scoring is balanced with SG Kent Bazemore (12.7 ppg) and second-year SF Taurean Prince (12.4) leading the way. The Hawks are one of the league’s worst at giving up offensive rebounds. The Bulls won the first meeting 91-86 at the United Center on Oct. 26, but have lost five straight in Atlanta.
The Bulls left town for a five-day road trip with visions of the NBA’s most violent face-plant lingering in their heads.
“It was tough to watch,” Bulls guard Jerian Grant said Friday at the Advocate Center.
While the Bulls flew to Atlanta, Kris Dunn stayed home due to a concussion. His fall after a breakaway dunk late in Wednesday’s loss to Golden State was one of the more painful highlights in recent memory.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Dunn will be checked out daily and it’s possible he could join the Bulls during the road trip. But it sounds likely Dunn will miss all three games. After Atlanta, the Bulls visit New Orleans and Philadelphia.
“The thing we’re thankful for is it wasn’t worse,” Hoiberg said. “It could have been a major, major injury. Obviously, it is a significant one with the concussion. We’re really thankful that he’ll be back, hopefully, before too long.
“When you see the fall and you saw the chip out of the floor, the fact that he didn’t lose his teeth completely, it’s unbelievable. He’s obviously got a lot of pain in his mouth. They put braces on him in the training room to try to stabilize the area, but right now the concern is the concussion.”
So Grant will start at point guard Saturday against the Hawks and be backed up by a committee that includes Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine and Ryan Arcidiacono, who joined the Bulls for the trip.
Grant started the first 12 games of the season before giving way to Dunn. Since then he has made one appearance in the starting lineup, on Dec. 29 against Indiana when Dunn was out with a sore knee. Grant finished with 11 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds that night as the Bulls beat the Pacers.
“I’ve been here before, so I’m prepared,” Grant said. “I’ve started a lot of games so far in my career, so I’m ready for it. The last time I started, we got a win. I did what I had to do so I’m prepared to do whatever we need.”
Point guard will be an important spot in Saturday’s game, since guard Dennis Schroder leads the Hawks in scoring by a wide margin. Hoiberg may ask David Nwaba to make another defensive stand like he had against Golden State’s Steph Curry on Wednesday. Curry scored 30 points vs. the Bulls, but none when Nwaba was in the game.
“Zach will have to play some point. Denzel, he’s played a little bit of point the last time Kris was out with the knee soreness.” Hoiberg said. “And then Arcidiacono has really played solid basketball with Windy City and we know he’ll give us great effort, give us a defensive presence out there if we have to put him in the game as well.”
Dunn’s sudden improvement was one of the biggest reasons for the Bulls’ turnaround. After a 3-20 start, they’ve gone 14-8 since Dec. 8. Dunn has done a nice job of getting baskets late in games. In fact, he had 9 fourth-quarter points against the Warriors and the breakaway dunk brought the Bulls within 5 points with 2:55 remaining.
“I don’t think (the injury) going to change the way Kris plays,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously it was very unfortunate in the timing because he had a couple of really good plays there to get things really turned in our favor and get the momentum going down the stretch. Kris was responsible as anybody for getting that game to striking distance.”