The Bulls try for their ninth straight win over the Hawks as the teams meet Tuesday at the United Center.
Both squads have dropped back-to-back contests following a three-game winning streak, but Chicago (23-19) seems to have a better chance of getting back on track. The Bulls have won eight in a row versus the Hawks (13-25) by an average margin of 10.3 points and haven’t lost to Atlanta since a 116-101 defeat on April 9, 2004.
Gordon again tried to lead the way for Chicago on Monday with 31 points, but he didn’t get enough help as the Bulls fell 98-91 to the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls trailed 60-43 at halftime and came as close as four points in the second half before losing.
“It was the first half,” said Gordon, who scored 21 of his points after the break. “We played a lot harder in the second half than the first. If we had the same effort at the start then the outcome would have been different.”
Gordon’s effort was certainly there as he surpassed 30 points for the sixth time this season.
“Ben Gordon is one of the great scorers in this league right now, in terms of being able to get on a roll … some of the shots he had were unbelievable,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
The Bulls hope for a similar effort as they try to avoid a third straight loss following three consecutive wins over Memphis, San Antonio and Milwaukee. They are opening a three-game homestand during which they’ll host the Hawks, Dallas and Miami.
Chicago is 17-6 at the United Center, tied with Washington for the most home victories in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks are playing the second of a four-game road trip after dropping the opener 104-85 to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. Atlanta lost both contests in the home-and-home series against the Bobcats following an impressive stretch of victories over Detroit, Boston and Minnesota.
The Hawks averaged 101.3 points during that winning streak, but have managed just 80.0 points per game in their last two defeats. Atlanta’s leading scorer Joe Johnson scored 22 points Saturday, and Marvin Williams added 20, but the Hawks were forced to play more than half the game without starting forward Josh Smith.
Smith was ejected for arguing an offensive foul late in the second quarter and raised both middle fingers to the crowd as he was about halfway through the tunnel after apparently being heckled by fans.
“That’s not the big reason we lost,” Johnson said. “I think we lost because we kind of lost focus. We didn’t get off to a good start. When teams jump out on us, we tend to sag our head a little bit. It’s tough for us to get back.”
Smith, who is averaging 15.7 points in his last three meetings with Chicago, was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his actions.
“He just can’t put himself in that position to where he loses his cool, and we’re already short-handed enough as it is,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said.
Atlanta’s Tyronn Lue is doubtful with a strained groin that has sidelined him for all but one game over the last month, while point guard Speedy Claxton is expected to miss his sixth straight game Tuesday with a sore left knee.