The last time the Chicago Bulls faced the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, Chicago took an early lead and looked like it was coasting to an easy victory. But Al Horford had something to say about that. Horford scored a career high-tying 31 points to rally Atlanta back from a double-digit deficit in an 83-80 win.
Derrick Rose vows that it will not happen again. He gets a chance to prove it on a nationally televised Tuesday night game at Philips Arena (8:00 PM., TNT, 97.9 FM).
Chicago (50-19) has been a team on a mission since the setback, winning nine of 10, including a 94-76 win over Atlanta at the United Center on March 11. Their success has helped forge a tie with the Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The Hawks on the other hand, have struggled since the come-from-behind win over the Bulls, posting just three wins in nine games. Luckily for Atlanta (40-30), the lack of consistency has yet to make a difference in the playoff race. The Hawks are still locked into the No. 5 spot in the East and a likely matchup with the Orlando Magic in the first round.
Chicago is coming off of a 132-92 demolition of the Sacramento Kings on Monday night in the Windy City. Rose and Kyle Korver lead eight Bulls players into double-figures in the win, which gave the Bulls their first 50-win season since the 1997-98 campaign.
The Hawks played better in their last game, posting a 104-96 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday afternoon. However, they did make the win a little more difficult than it had to be. The Pistons were in it until late, when Josh Smith posted a hook in the game's final minute.
That victory came on the back of a pair of double-digit setbacks to the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets, which compelled Horford to call a players-only meeting.
Look for Horford to take on the challenge of guarding his former Gators teammate Joakim Noah and elevate his game accordingly. Big Al always seems to rise to the occasion when playing against him. In order to prevail, Atlanta will have to contain Rose, take smart shots and get to the low post, just like they did a few weeks ago at the Bulb.