ATLANTA — After going 2-9 against the Atlanta Hawks the past three years, the Chicago Bulls can sweep the three games this season with a victory on Sunday at Philips Arena.
The timing of the turnaround doesn’t work for Chicago, though.
The Bulls, like the Hawks, are in full rebuild mode and victories right now are less important than losses.
Chicago (22-43) and Atlanta (20-46) are among the NBA bottom feeders hoping for the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery.
The Bulls and Hawks meet after both posted costly victories in the past week.
Atlanta defeated Phoenix last Sunday and Chicago handed Memphis another loss Wednesday. The Suns and Grizzlies have the two worst records in the NBA.
The Bulls, who benched veteran starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday after the All-Star break, have won just four of their past 19 games after a 99-83 loss at Detroit on Friday.
Lopez and Holiday returned to the starting lineup against the Pistons after the NBA reinforced to the Bulls the rule against resting healthy players, but each played only the first quarter while combining for 15 points.
“It was a little different,” Lopez told reporters after seeing his first action since Feb. 14. “I enjoy new situations. You get to work on something you haven’t done before. You have to value those minutes so I can help my teammates as efficiently as I can.”
Guard Zach LaVine and forward Lauri Markkanen — the Bulls’ hopes for the future — couldn’t take over for Lopez and Holiday, combining to shoot 6-for-27.
“It’s our job to play under those conditions,” LaVine said of the changing lineups. “… At the end of the day, it comes back and it’s on us. We’re the ones playing.”
Lopez and Holiday each played significant roles in the Bulls’ two victories over the Hawks this season.
Veteran center Lopez had 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 91-86 win at Chicago on Oct. 26, while forward Holiday contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds.
In the Bulls’ 113-97 victory at Atlanta on Jan. 20, Lopez scored 20 points and Holiday had 13.
That win was the Bulls’ 15th in 23 games, but they lost their next seven games and had a five-game losing streak before defeating lowly Dallas and Memphis over the past four games.
Chicago is one of the worst road teams in the NBA at 7-25, but the Hawks are the worst. Atlanta fell to 5-27 with Friday’s 112-87 loss at Indiana.
The Hawks trailed 34-15 after the first quarter and were down by 30 points not far into the second half.
Second-year forward Taurean Prince — one of the Hawks’ hopes for the future — drew the ire of coach Mike Budenholzer for his defensive play and was benched for the second half.
Budenholzer wasn’t happy with his team’s effort overall.
“(Indiana) started well and we didn’t,” the coach said. “But I thought it was 48 minutes of that.”
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