When last we saw the Atlanta Hawks, they were celebrating a shocking 17 point comeback win against the Bulls. Derrick Rose played his worst half of professional basketball, Al Horford absolutely owned the matchup against former Florida Gator teammate Joakim Noah and most personally frustrating, Hawks announcer Bob Rathbun ran the gamut of homerism, calling Horford "Al my pal!", the Hawks "The fellas!" and continually screaming for fouls against the Bulls and wishing them ill will if not outright harm. Color man and former NBA superstar Dominique Williams tried to reign him in at times, but Rathbun would have none of it. I am all for local announcers showing support for their teams, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Holman will be on my mind often tonight as the Bulls look to avenge what was their most shocking loss of the season, an 83-80 loss that they led up until the last seconds. Derrick Rose's ability to respond to adversity has been well-documented here before, and you just know that second half in Atlanta (1-for-11 field goals, six turnovers) still sticks in his craw.
The complexion of this game will be different as Atlanta will have Josh Smith back from injury, and the Bulls will be without Carlos Boozer, who sprained his ankle in the win over Charlotte on Wednesday. While the injury looked quite scary when it happened, coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday that Boozer could be out "anywhere from a couple days to a week." Taj Gibson is expected to start in his place, a role he knows very well with Boozer missing more than 20 games already this year.
Hawks To Watch For
As mentioned above, Al Horford simply went off against against the Bulls in Atlanta, to the tune of 31 points and 16 rebounds. Call it hyperbole if you will, but Horford almost single-handedly willed the Hawks comeback. Kirk Hinrich and his renowned on-the-ball defense shut down MVP candidate Derrick Rose last time out. Josh Smith will be back out on the floor, which means the Hawks have another athletic defender to protect the rim. Not that it's ever a good thing for Boozer to be injured, but the idea of him against Smith conjures the images of a block montage of the highest order.
Bulls To Watch For
Derrick Rose, back at home and supremely motivated, will be amped for this game. Taj Gibson will see his first extended minutes in a few weeks, as he was fighting an ankle sprain while the Bulls incorporated Noah and Asik into the rotation. Gibson played extremely well against Charlotte, and always brings solid defense, offensive rebounding, and a dependable 12 to 15 foot jumpshot. Luol Deng suffered a deep thigh bruise against the Bobcats, and while he will definitely play, it would not be surprising to see extended minutes for Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver. Also, with Boozer out, expect Rasual Butler to be active for the first time since joining the Bulls.
Strangely, since the Bulls lost that heartbreaker in Atlanta, they have won four straight, while Atlanta went on to lose its next three contests. Chicago returns home for its first of three straight at the United Center, looking to improve their 27-4 home record. Only 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics for the top seed in the East, every game is important as the NBA cruises into the stretch run.
Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. CST, Comcast Sports Net - Chicago has the call.