We're running out of glowing adjectives to describe the Atlanta Hawks right now, but on Saturday night, the team has another grueling test, as they complete a back-to-back set on the road with a trip to Chicago to take on the Bulls. The Hawks enter with an incredible 11-game winning streak, and above and beyond that, Mike Budenholzer's crew has also won 11 straight games away from Philips Arena.
However, Chicago is perhaps the biggest roadblock between the Hawks and unmitigated success in Eastern Conference. The Bulls are "just" 27-14 on the season, but it is almost universally accepted that Chicago is the de facto "favorite" in the conference right now. Fortunately for the road team in this match-up, the home team will be without both Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy on Saturday, in addition to the fact that the Hawks are basically out of their minds at the moment.
This isn't your "typical" Bulls team right now, in that they are actually better on the offensive end than they are on defense. Chicago is solidly a top-10 offense (105.8 points per 100 possessions) despite the fact that Derrick Rose has not quite been himself this season, but the emergence of Jimmy Butler (who will see a great deal of DeMarre Carroll here) has mitigated those issues from their All-NBA point guard. The other end of the floor actually looks like a mismatch in Atlanta's favor (be still my heart), especially with the way that Al Horford and Jeff Teague are playing right now.
On the Hawks side, the rest for some starters seemed to do the team well on Friday night in Canada, but you won't find a more difficult back-to-back in the East than Toronto and Chicago. With that on the table, this particular edition of the Atlanta Hawks shouldn't be underestimated at this point in time (I think that is pretty clear) and, at the very least, this should be a highly entertaining battle between two upper-echelon teams.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, January 17, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM