NBA Basketball

Early-season woes beset Bulls, Hawks

CHICAGO -- The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls have each experienced their share of early-season struggles while adjusting to not having a full complement of talent.

The results have been predictable as the Hawks and Bulls have combined for just one victory over seven games heading into Thursday night's game at United Center. While injuries and, in Chicago's case, a suspension to a top reserve have offered starting assignments to those who might otherwise be relegated to the bench, victories have been in short supply.

The Hawks are in the midst of a season-opening, five-game trip, which concludes with Thursday's visit to Chicago. Atlanta dropped its third straight game on Tuesday night, 104-93 to the Miami Heat; the Hawks again played without point guard Dennis Schroder, who isn't likely to return from a sprained left ankle until Friday's home opener against Denver.

Atlanta was also missing forward Ersan Ilyasova (strained left knee), Miles Plumlee (strained right thigh) and DeAndre' Bembry, who underwent surgery on a broken right wrist on Tuesday and will miss four to six weeks.

After falling behind early, the Hawks went on a 33-12 run to tie the game at 77, but they couldn't maintain the momentum long enough to notch their second win of the season.

"We stayed the course," Atlanta's Kent Bazemore told reporters. "We came out in the third quarter and gave them a good punch to start the third. The biggest thing from tonight is we stayed steady, kept plugging away and gave ourselves a chance."

The Bulls remained winless on Tuesday after a 119-112 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Chicago played again without several injured players and the suspended Bobby Portis, who served the third game of an eight-game ban for punching forward Nikola Mirotic last week in practice.

Rookie Lauri Markkanen continues to make the most of his opportunity. He scored 19 points against the Cavaliers, including 17 in the first half. Markkanen connected on five first-half 3-pointers and set an NBA record by making 10 3-pointers in his first three games.

The Bulls found a way to spread the wealth offensively when seven players reached double figures, paced by Justin Holiday's 25 points.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters that he hopes Mirotic comes out of concussion protocol soon. Mirotic, who also suffered facial fractures in the altercation with Portis, is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Hoiberg said there is a 50-50 chance Chicago could get guard Kris Dunn back on Thursday. Dunn, who was acquired in the offseason as part of the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, has not yet played this season due to a dislocated index finger.

Even if Dunn does return against the Hawks, the Bulls will continue to rely on players such as Markkanen as Chicago looks to avoid losing for the fourth straight game.

"He has been really good," Hoiberg told reporters Tuesday night, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He has a chance to be special."

But, given the fact that Mirotic has responded to only a few text messages from teammates since last week's altercation, there is concern that the Bulls -- already in a rebuilding stage -- might need to heal up in other ways.

"Whatever happens, we've got to come together as a team," center Robin Lopez told the Chicago Sun-Times. "You've got to come together as a group of guys and figure out what's best for the squad."

Updated October 26, 2017

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