Hawks seek fresh start with play-in game vs. Bulls

The Atlanta Hawks ended the regular season on a downhill slide with six consecutive losses.

Now they need only a two-game winning streak to reach the playoffs.

The Hawks have renewed life due to the Eastern Conference play-in round and will visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

Atlanta (36-46) is the 10th seed in the East with Chicago (39-43) set at No. 9. The loser on Wednesday is eliminated.

The winner will face either the No. 7 seed Philadelphia 76ers or No. 8 Miami Heat on Friday for a spot in the playoffs.

The Hawks are a battered team that recently lost standout forward Jalen Johnson (ankle) for the near future. Big man Onyeka Okongwu (big toe) also is sidelined while forward Saddiq Bey (knee) was lost for the season five weeks ago.

That makes the three-time All-Star Trae Young a key figure if Atlanta is going to make a run to the postseason.

Young recently returned from a 23-game absence due to a torn ligament in his left pinkie finger. He averaged 15 points and 10 assists during Atlanta’s final three games.

Though his scoring totals were modest, Young was on a minutes restriction that gradually increased. He played 21 minutes in his return, then 27 and 32.

“I feel a lot better,” Young said. “I’m just trying to make sure I can play at least close to my minutes that I played in the regular season in the play-in game.”

Young will complement Dejounte Murray, who had outputs of 29, 12 and 32 points since Young returned.

The Hawks will be short-handed, but coach Quin Snyder isn’t fretting over the situation.

“That’s just something, as I’ve said, really, it’s no different than throughout the course of the year,” Snyder said. “The guys that you do have, they have to be ready to go and have to play at a high level, and you can’t lament those things. So we’ll be ready.”

Atlanta was thrashed 157-115 by the host Indiana Pacers in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

Chicago ended the regular season with a 120-119 overtime loss against the host New York Knicks.

DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points but missed a short shot with 2.8 seconds left in overtime.

DeRozan was crushed afterward even though the game had no bearing on the Bulls’ postseason picture.

“Everybody out there wanted to win,” DeRozan said. “So I don’t know, it just felt like one of those games like we were playing for something, and we are.”

DeRozan is happy about the state of the Bulls despite the fact they finished the regular season four games below .500.

“I’m proud of this group,” DeRozan said. “Even the way we competed going into the play-in game shows you with the amount of things we went through, us being ready for what’s next. This year has been a lot to build up a lot of resiliency in us all, and it’s brought us a lot closer. And with that it’s going to be a lot of positives that can carry over.”

Chicago lost standout Zach LaVine (foot) for the season nearly three months ago but is certainly healthier than the Hawks.

Big man Andre Drummond (sprained left ankle) and guard Ayo Dosunmu (bruised right quadriceps) are both listed as questionable for the Bulls.

Chicago took two of three meetings with Atlanta this season, but the visiting Hawks prevailed 113-101 in the most recent clash on April 1.

Bogdan Bogdanovic had 20 points as one of six Atlanta players in double digits, while DeRozan poured in 31 for the Bulls.