Hawks-Bulls Preview

Atlanta Hawks Status Check:
Record: 30-21
Division: 8-3
Conference: 23-12
Home Record: 16-7
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 108-101 loss to Milwaukee
PPG: 94.9 (19th)
Opponents PPG: 93.0 (5th)
Offensive Rating: 103.0 (21st)
Defensive Rating: 100.9 (7th)
Pace: 89.9 (23rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .490 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .135 (12th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .742 (9th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .244 (25th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .185 (29th)
Opp. eFG%: .476 (10th)
Opp. TO%: .144 (9th)
Opp. FT/FGA: 188 (5th)
Leading scorer: Joe Johnson (19.1)

Stats from Basketball-Reference

Atlanta Injury Report:
Al Horford: out for season
Jannero Pargo: out 2-4 weeks (appendectomy)
Vladimir Radmanovic: missed Tuesday’s game (sore back)

Overview:
The last time Chicago lost back-to-back games was February of 2011, when they lost to Golden State and Portland. Since then, the Bulls’ worst streak was going 3-3 from late January to early February this year (those losses came against Indiana, Miami and Philadelphia—very good teams). Chicago will put that streak on the line in Atlanta tonight.

Coming off a loss to Denver, Chicago once again will play an opponent that is on the tail-end of a back-to-back, for the sixth straight time. To make it even better for the Bulls, Atlanta is playing for the fifth time in six nights.

The Hawks lost to Milwaukee last night, in a game in which both teams shot 50 percent from the field. Ivan Johnson was pretty much perfect in the game. Going 7-7 from the field for 17 points and adding three rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers. He still recorded a plus/minus of -12 somehow.

Josh Smith had a Kevin Love-like double-double, scoring 30 points (14-26 from the field) and grabbing 18 rebounds. Knowing Smith, he probably took a lot more long twos than Kevin Love would have (Also Smith is basically the opposite of Kevin Love when it comes to athletic ability).

Coming off that 30 point, 18 rebound game, Josh Smith also looks to continue his solid play against the Bulls this season. He’s averaging 19 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in the three games against Chicago.

Joe Johnson followed up his 37 points on Sunday with just eleven against the Jazz. Johnson went 4-14 from the field, but still recorded a team best plus/minus of +9 (he also had eight assists). He is averaging 24.2 points and shooting 49.2 percent (50.8 percent from three) over his last ten games, even with last night’s poor performance.

Atlanta dominated the paint, outscoring the Bucks 50-32 in that area. The Hawks downfall was turning the ball over 22 times, and giving up 23 points off those turnovers.

And if a back-to-back wasn’t hard enough for Atlanta, their game Saturday night went into four overtimes (just the ninth time in NBA history a game had four extra periods).

Atlanta is 16-7 at home this season, and according to STATS LLC, the Hawks have won seven of their last eight home games against the Bulls, winning by an average of 14.1 points.

The Bulls were out-hustled, out-ran, out-rebounded and every other “out-” you can think of. This type of thing happens, a team can’t be at the top of their game every night, but it is always surprising when it happens to the Bulls. It’s a rare night when Chicago gets out-worked top-to-bottom, but Denver did it.

Tonight is the fourth and final time these teams will meet in the regular season. The Bulls are leading the series 2-1, winning both of their games in the United Center

It’s been a long time since the Bulls have come out flat in two straight games and lost. But they’ll have to be near the top of their game to beat the Hawks, who have given the Bulls trouble in recent seasons, even when Derrick Rose was playing. In Rose’s worst game against Atlanta this season (3-10 shooting, turned the ball over five times and recorded a -33 plus/minus) the Hawks got the win. Rose averaged 26.5 in the Bulls’ wins, so Chicago needs to find those points from someone else.

Those two Chicago wins also came from the defense, when the Bulls held Atlanta to an average of 76.5 points. Without Rose, the Bulls need to win with that aspect of the game, and they know it.

After the Bulls gave up 108 points to the Nuggets, Kyle Korver explained the real reason they lost. “It wasn’t scoring points, though,” Korver said. “We’ve won a lot of games scoring 91 points or less. We just got to play better defense and we can do that with or without Derrick.”

Rose will probably take his new favorite position, the seat at the end of the bench, along with Rip Hamilton. It will be the eighth straight missed game for Rose and the twelfth straight for Rip. The Masked (and Invisible) Man has played just 16 games, while missing 35. But it’s most important that Rip and Rose are healthy for the playoffs.

And apparently that is happening as Rip is getting close to returning after taking some contact in practice. Rose on the other hand, just began running again on Saturday, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago.

Noah’s Ark is Sinking: Joakim Noah has scored just two points in each of his last two games (he was ejected after playing just 12 minutes in one of those games). He hasn’t reached double digit scoring or rebounding since March 17, against Philadelphia, when he had 13 points and 11 rebounds. He is shooting 37 percent over his last five games, and averaging 6.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. The Bulls need their emotional leader to show up when their best player is wearing a suit on the bench. Noah even lucks out by not having to play against Al Horford tonight.

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