After two blowout losses, Hawks host Bulls

NBA Basketball

The Atlanta Hawks couldn’t get out of Philadelphia fast enough after two consecutive blowout losses to the 76ers.

The Hawks (34-30) remain tied with the Boston Celtics for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and are a half-game ahead of the seventh-seeded Miami Heat as Atlanta returns home to face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

The Hawks, who have lost three in a row overall, also are 1 1/2 games behind the Knicks for fourth place and home-court advantage in an opening-round playoff series.

Coming off a 127-83 loss Wednesday to the 76ers, the Hawks got off to a better start Friday. But the Sixers outscored Atlanta 42-20 in the second quarter, shooting 15-of-28 from the field in the period and cruising from that point to a 126-104 win.

Clint Capela had 11 points and 15 rebounds, he but couldn’t do much to contain a balanced effort from Philadelphia as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons each scored 18 points.

“We didn’t contain them; that was the problem tonight,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “Defensively, we just could not keep the ball in front of us. We just had too many breakdowns on the ball.”

On the plus side, Trae Young returned to action after missing the previous four games with an ankle injury. Young scored 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting including 10-for-10 from the free throw line.

“I always try to battle back and get back to the court as fast as possible,” Young said. “I was just doing a lot of treatment, and (our trainers) did a great job helping me to get back on the court.”

The Bulls (26-37) lost more ground as their hopes of sneaking into the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference dwindled following a 108-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. With nine games left, Chicago is three games behind the Washington Wizards for 10th place and the final spot in the play-in round.

“It’s not an ideal position,” said Chicago forward Nikola Vucevic. “At this point, all we can do is continue to try to look ahead, try to fix what we did wrong and try to win as many games as we can going forward. We understand that we don’t really control our destiny. But we have to continue to fight.”

Vucevic scored 17 points on 7-for-27 shooting, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range, and grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds. Coby White finished with 21 points to lead Chicago, and Daniel Theis had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bulls have lost two in a row and three of their past four. Atlanta is going for the three-game season sweep of the Bulls after beating them 120-108 at home on April 9 in a game in which Chicago star guard Zach LaVine scored 50 points. LaVine (health and safety protocols) has missed nine consecutive games.

“I’ll probably know a little bit more, I think, once we get through this weekend,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said.

Troy Brown Jr. (left-ankle sprain) also missed his sixth game in a row on Friday. And Lauri Markkanen (illness) and Cristiano Felicio (illness) were out.

Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter missed his second consecutive game with a left-shoulder sprain.

–Field Level Media

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