[Thanks to Cosmis for today's game preview. Noah is out, and Deng is a gametime decision. Derrick Rose banged knees at the end of Saturday's game, but I believe he's good to go tonight. This is the start of a very tough (if home-laden) stretch of games for the Bulls. -ed.]
Here we are, at the start of both March and one of the season's most important home stands. Four in a row against quality competition. It starts at the Madhouse on Madison tonight versus Atlanta. The Bulls and Hawks have played three previous times this season, coming away with two wins for Atlanta and one for our Bulls. The Hawks did us a bit of a favor by breaking the Bucks win streak in overtime last night, and we're still within hailing distance of both the Hawks and the Celtics.
Most Important Bulls in the World: Derrick Rose (and his knee).
He banged knees near the end of that uninspired loss in Indiana, and should be fine for tonight. The Bulls are going to need the #15 scorer in the NBA healthy, as he's averaging 23.3 points and 6.3 assists in the three games against Atlanta this season. Bibby simply cannot stay in front of Derrick. He's also averaging 24.6 points, 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds on 56.3% (81/144) shooting from the field since the All-Star break.
JJ (possibly the most universally hated Bull to never put on a Bulls uniform) and Josh Smith have been the catalysts for the Hawks season so far, and if they are to do anything this season, it'll be because Joe Johnson and Josh Smith take them there. Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson's ability to do anything on these two defensively is beyond important. It's critical. It's...a word beyond important or critical.