It’s amazing what a trip to Philadelphia can do.
The Atlanta Hawks are suddenly "right" again after a lopsided win over the Sixers and, yes, my tongue is firmly planted in cheek. There is something to the fact that Mike Budenholzer’s team played much better basketball on Thursday night, but in the same breath, there will be a steep jump in competition on Saturday afternoon at Philips Arena when the Chicago Bulls take the floor.
Chicago enters the matinee match-up at 22-12 on the season, and they are one of only a handful of Eastern Conference teams that sit ahead of Atlanta in the standings. The Bulls have won six consecutive games to amass that record, and during that stretch, Chicago has bludgeoned opponents to the tune of a +9.2 net rating.
On the side of the Hawks, this is a strong test and Atlanta hasn’t exactly sustained a ton of success against the Bulls in recent years. The Hawks did manage to win the season series against the Bulls a year ago, taking two of the three meetings, but prior to last season, Chicago had won six consecutive meetings and 11 of 13 contests overall. Much of that history is, of course, irrelevant when the two teams match up on Saturday, but fans will undoubtedly hold on to some level of anxiety during the game.
The Hawks are healthy after the return of Tiago Splitter and that is a very good thing. Still, it will be undeniably interesting to see how Atlanta fares against a "real" opponent, even at full strength, and the oddity of a 5:00 pm ET tip-off makes things all the more interesting. Stay tuned throughout the day for extended coverage from Philips Arena, and let’s do this together.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, January 9, 5:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM