Apr 10, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) points to a teammate against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Hawks and Bulls Prepare for Battle in Play-in Matchup

After an electric first night of play-in matchups, it is now the Eastern Conference’s turn to find out whose season will continue in the recently established playoff setup. After four winning-teams clashed in the Western conference, two teams with losing records hope to prove that it is never too late for a season to turn around.

Since being implemented in 2020, the Atlanta Hawks have been in the play-in three times in five seasons. Last year, a win over the Miami Heat secured them the No. 7 seed. However, they would later lose in six to the Boston Celtics. For the Bulls, last year was their first taste of the new single-game format. Coming in as the 10th and final team to sneak into the post-season, they beat 9-seed Toronto. However, they lost to Miami in the win-and-in final game. Now, the two teams will face off, with the possibility of a season’s end on the line.

Battle For Life

Though a win does not clinch a spot in a seven-game series just yet, a win means more life. The winner of tonight’s game must win one more game to continue a post-season run. Meanwhile, the loser will be sent home for good.

An Early Favorite

Coming off a 39-43 season led by 34-year-old DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls come in as a slight favorite in the matchup. According to ESPN analytics, the Bulls have a 60.4% chance to move on despite a 22-29 record against Eastern Conference opponents. Chicago finished the season a middling 5-5 over their last 10, including a 113-101 loss to Atlanta. With the game being played in Chicago, the Bulls are expected to find success with the home crowd advantage. However, Chicago is just 4-6 in its last 10 home games.

The Hawks’ finish to the season was extremely poor, losing six straight and burying them into the 10 seed. The season finale topped off the Hawks’ struggles, as Atlanta fell 157-115 at Indiana to send them into a play-in with a bad taste in their mouth. Despite the Bulls’ negative conference record, the Hawks are actually worse at 22-30. On the road as underdogs, the Hawks will lean on their star duo of Dejounte Murray and Trae Young in hopes of continuing a season that hasn’t lived up to expectations so far.

With both teams struggling down the stretch, they will now battle for a chance at the loser of the Heat-76ers matchup. From there, the winner will secure the eighth seed, where they will have to face the 64-18 Boston Celtics.

For now, both teams must focus on one game at a time, with their matchup tipping-off at 9:30 on ESPN.

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