The Atlanta Hawks have amassed a 16-7 record, and no one is complaining about that early-season performance. However, the Hawks saw their nine-game winning streak snapped against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, and with that, there is a bit of a sour taste to be cleansed. Mike Budenhoizer and his team will have every opportunity to rinse that ugliness away on Monday, as the Hawks host the Chicago Bulls at Philips Arena.
Of course, any diehard fan of the Atlanta Hawks knows that Chicago has been a big-time nemesis for the team in recent seasons. The Bulls have won six straight games in the series, including four by double-figures, and Chicago has won 11 of the past 13 meetings with Atlanta dating back to the 2011 season. Reason has often flown out the window when these two teams hit the floor, and there is some reason to find trepidation in this match-up.
Still, this is a different Hawks team, and despite Saturday night, this is a winnable spot for Atlanta. The home team actually has the better overall record for the season (a nice change), and that is backed up by a better nat rating when taking efficiency into account. The biggest issue in this game will be what version of the Chicago roster shows up, with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah battling all sorts of injury issues this season. Noah was absent during Chicago's game on Sunday, but Rose has been on the floor consistently in the recent past.
The frontcourt match-up will likely tell the story of this game, simply because Chicago is loaded. Even if Noah were to miss the game, Al Horford, Paul Millsap and company would be dealing with a skilled set of big men led by Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, and nothing will be easy around the rim. Admittedly, the Hawks may have an advantage on the perimeter, even with Jimmy Butler having a great season, but these two rosters are comparable now that Chicago is operating at less than full strength.
I, for one, will be attempting to rid myself of flashback images to hideous performances against the Bulls in the past, and hopefully, things will remain on track during Monday night's contest. Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Monday, December 15, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 The Game