Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference duke it out on President’s Day in a big time tilt between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks are starting to slide just a bit, as they are probably now too far out of the Southeast Division race to make an impact in it. That being said, they are still contending for second place in the division and the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, a seeding that would earn them home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. This is the type of game that would need to be won to have any shot of claiming the Eastern Conference this year, as it is clear that the road to the NBA Finals in the East is going to go through at least one of, and likely both of Chicago and Miami. Atlanta hit the road last week thinking that it would be a good change of pace after losing four out of five at home to start the month of February. Not so much. It was dropped in two of the three out West, including getting trounced by 20 against a struggling Portland Trail Blazers outfit at the Rose Garden. The task doesn’t get any easier now that the Hawks have to head to the Windy City, and they could be in some trouble against a very talented Chicago team.
The Bulls were doing just fine without Derrick Rose in the lineup until last week when they were beaten by both the Boston Celtics and the New Jersey Nets. A defense that generally holds teams in the 80s (if that) has suddenly averaged allowing 96.8 points per game over these last four tussles, and the offense only has one game above 91 points in that stretch. Rose is still listed as questionable for Monday’s battle with back spasms that have kept him out for a couple of weeks. The time might be near for him to come back, especially after his Bulls were trounced by a dozen points by an awful New Jersey team that is still playing without Brook Lopez, its best player, on Saturday at home. The handwriting is on the wall that Chicago isn’t as good as the Miami Heat, especially with Rose sitting in street clothes, and though Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah are monsters on the inside, the Bulls aren’t going to be able to deal with the best teams in the league on a consistent basis without their MVP candidate.
The Final Word: Whether Rose plays or not, we tend to think that the Bulls are the right play on Monday afternoon. They are clearly going to be the favorites when the NBA odds come out for this one, and we just don’t see how the Hawks are going to be competing after this long road trip out West that had such poor results.
Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls Pick: Chicago Bulls
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.