The last time the Chicago Bulls were at .500 this late in the season, Michael Jordan was still on the team.
The resurgent Bulls, winners of 17 of their last 23 games, will try to establish a winning record for the first time this season as they host the struggling Atlanta Hawks.
Chicago has won five of its last seven road games, including Saturday’s impressive 100-89 victory at defending NBA champion Detroit, to reach the .500 mark this late in the schedule for the first time since 1997-98—in Jordan’s last season with the Bulls.
Kirk Hinrich had 24 points and nine assists as Chicago improved to 2-0 at Detroit this season. Hinrich also helped limit Pistons swingman Richard Hamilton to seven second-half points after he scored 25 before the break.
Though the Bulls have rebounded from a dismal 2-13 start, they realize there are plenty of games left.
“To do things, you’ve got to get to .500, but it is what you do after you get there that is important,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “We aren’t even halfway through the season. Let’s see what we do from here.”
Eddy Curry, who fouled out with 15 points Saturday, has been a big factor in Chicago’s improvement. Curry is averaging 18.0 points in his last 11 games and the Bulls are 11-4 this season when he scores at least 18.
The Bulls have also held 25 straight opponents below 100 points.
Atlanta won for the third time in its last four home games with a 100-96 victory over Boston on Saturday. Antoine Walker scored 29 points against his former team, and nailed a critical jumper from the corner with 38 seconds left for a four-point lead.
The win completed a draining day after Atlanta’s flight from Chicago late Friday was delayed, forcing the Hawks to arrive Saturday afternoon.
“A big win for us, especially after the tough time we had last night,” Walker said.
The Hawks are hoping to get even for a 95-85 loss at Chicago last Friday. Atlanta held a 56-38 rebounding advantage, but shot only 34 percent.