Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Chicago Bulls (7-12 SU, 5-13-1 ATS) vs. Atlanta Hawks (14-6 SU, 14-6 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, December 9, 2009, Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Bulls +11/Hawks -11
Over/Under: 195

The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are two teams that were expected before the season to be playoff teams this year. While the Hawks are looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are anything but that.

Losers of three games in a row, everything came apart on Tuesday night when the Bulls lost at home to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets came into the game with a 1-19 record and hadn’t won a road game all season long. With a disappointing 103-101 loss to the Nets, it’s going to be tough for the Bulls to recover emotionally just one day later after traveling to Chicago and facing a very strong Hawks team.

The Bulls lost on consecutive days over the weekend. After losing 101-87 at Cleveland, the Bulls came home and were destroyed by the Toronto Raptors, 110-78. The Bulls hope to have a much different result this time around on the back end of two games in two days.

The Hawks are 14-6 this season but they haven’t been able to put together consecutive wins since November 20. Last Wednesday, the Hawks showed off their offensive capabilities with a 146-115 win over the Raptors. Two days later, they lost 114-107 to the Knicks. But the Hawks bounced back the next day in Dallas with an 80-75 win over the Mavericks. The Hawks have now had three days off since their last game, so unlike the Bulls they are well-rested for this game.

The Hawks like to get out and run and score quickly in transition. In half-court sets, they use their athleticism and length to get to the rim for easy baskets. Joe Johnson, normally a terrific shooter, is only shooting 28.6 percent from 3-point range this season but he is leading the Hawks with 21.5 points per game. Jamal Crawford, who was acquired by the Hawks in the offseason, is second on the team with 16.1 points per game. He is also shooting poorly at just 28.7 percent from beyond the arc. Josh Smith is having a solid all-around season with 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 blocks per game. Al Horford is anchoring the low post with 13.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby are each scoring just over 10 points per game.

Luol Deng leads the Bulls in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is second in rebounding with 8.1 per game, but in his last three games he is averaging less than 12 points and six rebounds per game. Derrick Rose hasn’t quite met expectations yet this season after winning Rookie of the Year last season. He is averaging 15.3 points and 5.3 assists per game. The Bulls need Rose to improve his numbers if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. John Salmons has been solid with 14.4 points per game, and Joakim Noah has been dominant on the boards with 11.8 rebounds per game to go along with his 10.8 points per game.

The Hawks are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home games. The total has gone under in five of the Hawks’ last seven games. The Bulls are 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight games. The total has gone under in four of their last five games.

Ryno’s Pick: After a home loss to a 1-19 Nets team, the Bulls will not have much confidence the very next day after having to travel to Atlanta from Chicago. The Bulls also used a lot of energy trying to win a close game, so they will not be able to match the energy of a Hawks team that has been off the last three days and likes to push the tempo. The Hawks have an athleticism advantage at almost every position in this matchup. Look for Smith to pull Noah or Brad Miller or whoever is guarding him out to the perimeter and exploit that matchup. Taj Gibson may be the best player to defend Smith, but he should be able to take advantage of the rookie. Normally, Tyrus Thomas would guard Smith but he is injured right now. The one matchup the Bulls should be able to take advantage of is at point guard where Rose has a size, speed, quickness and athleticism advantage over Bibby. Rose hasn’t been playing very well this season, but if he can somehow have a terrific game that may be the only way the Bulls could possibly win this one. Even still, the combination of the rest, home court, confidence and athleticism of the Hawks will prove to be too much for the Bulls. Take the Hawks -11.