Hawks-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls have won three in a row and are coming off a 40-point victory.

The Atlanta Hawks likely won't be too intimidated.

In their first meeting since last season's conference semifinals, the surging Bulls host a Hawks team coming off an impressive win in their first game of a daunting stretch.

After opening the season with a 3-1 road trip, Chicago (4-1) made its long-awaited home opener Sunday night against Memphis, and didn't disappoint the United Center fans. The Bulls jumped out to a 26-point halftime advantage, led by as much as 46 in the third quarter and cruised to a 104-64 victory.

The game was so lopsided, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah spent more time on the bench than on the court and Derrick Rose played just 25 minutes.

There were a few concerns for the Bulls, though, as starting shooting guard Richard Hamilton was scratched shortly before tip-off with a sore left groin and backup point guard C.J. Watson sprained his left elbow late in the game. Hamilton will likely be a game-time decision against the Hawks (4-1), while Watson is unlikely to play.

Ronnie Brewer, who started in place of Hamilton, and Boozer led the Bulls with 17 points apiece Sunday and Rose finished with 16 points and six assists. Chicago is averaging 108.7 points during its three-game winning streak, while outrebounding opponents by an average of 9.3 boards.

"I thought we had chance to win (the championship) last year. I think we have a chance to win this year," Boozer told the Bulls' official website. "We're going to have a chance every year. Aside from Olympics and All-Star teams, this is the most talented team I've been on in the NBA."

Boozer and the Bulls got past Indiana and Atlanta in last season's playoffs before being eliminated by Miami in five games.

The Heat opened this season with five straight victories and went into Monday's game against Atlanta coming off a 39-point win over Charlotte the night before, but couldn't keep their perfect record intact as the Hawks won 100-92.

Joe Johnson had 21 points and Tracy McGrady hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 2:26 of the fourth quarter and scored 13 of his 16 points in the final period. Al Horford also had 16 points for the Hawks, who finished with a season-low 10 turnovers.

"Great execution,'' McGrady said. "That's what you have to do when you're playing great teams.''

Atlanta will see two of the Eastern Conference's top teams this week.

After facing Chicago, the Hawks return home to open a back-to-back-to-back stretch with a rematch against the Heat on Thursday. They'll then play in Charlotte the next night and conclude the three games in three nights stretch Saturday at home against the Bulls.

Atlanta took Game 1 of last season's playoff series with Chicago at the United Center, but the Bulls went on to win the series in six games. Rose led Chicago, averaging 29.8 points and 9.8 assists.

Johnson scored 34 on 12-of-18 shooting in upsetting the Bulls in Game 1, but averaged 16.8 points in the other five games.

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