The Chicago Bulls would like to forget about their latest game, when their five-game road winning streak ended by blowing a late lead. They’d especially like to erase the memories of their last trip to Atlanta.
The Bulls look to bounce back on the road Friday night against the Hawks, who have won eight of nine at Philips Arena and handed Chicago its worst loss of the season there in December.
The Bulls (23-24) lost the first two games of a recent seven-game road swing, but stunningly closed with five consecutive victories over teams with winning records - the first time that’s been done on the same trip in NBA history.
They looked flat in a 90-82 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers upon returning home Tuesday, and had their road streak snapped Wednesday in Philadelphia against a team which entered with a 7-16 home record. Chicago led by six after 24 minutes and by one in the final seconds of regulation but ended up losing 106-103 in overtime.
The Bulls were focused at the beginning of their trip to Atlanta on Dec. 9, trailing the Hawks (31-17) by one after a quarter. Atlanta, however, outscored Chicago 65-36 over the next two quarters en route to a 118-83 win.
Former Bull Jamal Crawford(notes) had 29 points and Maurice Evans(notes) 18 for a Hawks bench which outscored the Bulls’ reserves 66-32. Kirk Hinrich(notes) was 0 for 9 from the field as Chicago lost its fourth straight in Atlanta.
Three of Johnson’s six career 40-point games have come against the Bulls.
The four-time All-Star has averaged 25.5 points over his last 12 games, and he’s carried the offensive load in the last two. Johnson scored 37 in a 106-99 loss at Oklahoma City on Tuesday, then had 14 of his 34 during a fourth quarter in which the Hawks came from nine down to beat the Clippers 103-97 on Wednesday.
“It’s ridiculous how much he was scoring,” said fellow All-Star Al Horford(notes), who had 16 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double in eight games. “He just goes about it like a business.”
Horford has averaged 15.0 points and 11.0 boards in his last four games against the Bulls.
He won’t have to match up against former University of Florida teammate Joakim Noah(notes), who was sent back to Chicago for treatment on his plantar fasciitis. Noah’s 12.0 rebounds per game are a main reason the Bulls lead the NBA (45.6), but he’ll be sidelined at least through the All-Star break.
“He’ll never sit himself down,” general manager Gar Forman told the Bulls’ official Web site. “In talking to him, you could tell it wasn’t getting better. We need to shut him down for a little bit. For four games, at least.
“It’s going to have a big effect on us, obviously.”
Noah’s absence means Chicago might lean more on Tyrus Thomas(notes), averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game over his last four. He missed the first two meetings with Atlanta due to a fractured forearm.