Tuesday’s loss against the Dallas Mavericks was a bad one, but it was a game many have come to expect from the Chicago Bulls. They beat teams they aren’t suppose to, but struggle against some of the worst teams in the NBA. Dwyane Wade has seemed to accept it at this point, telling the media after the loss:
"This is who we is right now," Wade said. "We're halfway through the season. We're now 21-22. We've been going through this all year. I'm too old to be getting stressed out and frustrated with all this. So we'll get back in here [Wednesday] and the next two days and try to figure out how to get a win on the road."
But Chicago has move on when they face the Atlanta Hawks in Phillips Arena. This is the first of a back to back, as they face the Sacramento Kings tomorrow at home.
The Hawks currently sit 4th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-18. In a conference where the top three teams (Cleveland, Toronto, Boston) have already established themselves as contenders, Atlanta seems to be the best of the rest. They sit two games behind the Celtics for the third spot but are only a game ahead of the 5th spot Washington Wizards. With a lot of the Eastern Conference teams vying for playoff spots, the outcome of this game could have some playoff implications even at this early stage of the season.
Atlanta has been on a good run as of late, recently going on a seven game winning streak before having it snapped with a close loss against the Boston Celtics. They were blown out 118-95 in their most recent game against the Pistons. The game wasn’t even close as Detroit jumped on the Hawks early and dominated the whole 60 minutes. So expect Atlanta to be looking for a better effort this time around as well.
The last time both of these two teams met it was back on November 9th and Atlanta won 115-109. They will meet two more times after this game, with the last meeting on April 1st.
In terms of health, the Bulls are all healthy. Taj Gibson was iffy with an ankle injury but he practiced and is reportedly good to go.
Atlanta will be without big man Mike Muscala, who will be missing his 3rd straight game with a left ankle sprain. The Hawks will be missing Muscala’s three-point threat in this game.
But the key man to stop for Chicago’s defense will be Paul Millsap, who is leading the team with 17.8 points per game. Him and Dennis Schroder make up a dangerous 1-2 punch that will certainly cause Chicago problems. Chicago will have to work on limiting those second chance opportunities for the Atlanta offense. That means keeping Dwight Howard off the boards. This means more pressure on Robin Lopez and the returning Gibson to make sure that Atlanta’s bigs don’t crash the glass.
Chicago has struggled against Atlanta in the past. If the Bulls keep playing like they have the past two weeks, this could turn ugly.
Game time: 7PM CT