Bulls-Hawks Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Hawks are trying to hold on to eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

They can't be looking forward to facing the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls, who have their sights set on the No. 3 seed.

Coming off a rare win, the Hawks try to avoid a sixth consecutive loss to the visiting Bulls on Wednesday night.

After a 7-20 slide, Atlanta (32-41) finds itself one game ahead of New York with two weeks left in the season. The Hawks also need to be wary of 10th-place Cleveland, which is three games back and comes to town Friday.

"I know who's playing who, I know who they're playing next," forward Kyle Korver said. "We're supposed to focus on ourselves, but I looking at everything. ... We all know what's on the line."

The Hawks had been limited to an average of 91.8 points during a six-game losing streak while Korver was out with back trouble, but he returned Monday in a 103-95 win over Philadelphia. Paul Millsap had 28 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, and Lou Williams scored 22 off the bench against his former team.

Atlanta, which outscored the 76ers 48-34 in the paint and held a 13-6 edge on the offensive glass, trailed by as many as 14 in the second quarter before storming back.

"The eighth playoff spot is ours right now. We have to keep on playing like it is," said Korver, who finished with 11 points. "If we had lost this game, it would have been tough. We didn't play great, but we played harder, we played with a purpose."

The Hawks haven't seen much go their way against Chicago of late. The Bulls have taken 14 of 18 in the series, including playoffs, winning the last five meetings by an average of 16.4 points.

Chicago got all it could handle, though, during its last visit to Atlanta, narrowly winning 107-103 on Feb. 25 as seven of eight active Bulls scored in double figures.

The Bulls (42-32) are seeking a third consecutive win and fifth in six games after sweeping a home-and-home set against Boston. Mike Dunleavy led the way with 22 points in Monday's 94-80 victory, and Joakim Noah scored 10 of his 19 in the fourth quarter.

Chicago moved into a third-place tie with Toronto, which fell 93-83 at Miami earlier that night.

"I think it's very important," Dunleavy said of securing the third seed. "We want to get as high as we can. Not only with home-court advantage and avoiding the first seed in the second round, if we're fortunate enough to advance. We just want to get as high as we can."

Chicago outscored the Celtics 48-30 in the paint and 26-6 in transition, moving 10 games above .500 for the first time this season.

"I think we're playing pretty good basketball, but I think we can play better," said Noah, whose team improved to 20-5 against fellow East teams in 2014. "I think the mindset is good. Everybody is working, everybody is in the weight room, everybody is trying to find ways to get better."

The Bulls, averaging an NBA-worst 93.1 points, are 39-10 when scoring 89 or more compared to 3-22 when they don't. The Hawks have surrendered at least 92 points in all but one of their last 24 games, a stretch during which they're allowing 105.0 per contest.

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