Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 3:06 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
ATLANTA--For the second straight night, the Bulls will have revenge in mind. After thoroughly dispatching the Kings Monday night to extend their winning streak at the United Center and avenge Sacramento's 35-point comeback last season in Chicago, Tuesday the Bulls hope to erase the more recent memory of the Hawks' 19-point comeback earlier March 2 in Atlanta.
Following their own failed overtime comeback Saturday in Indiana, ending an eight-game winning streak, a refocused Bulls team took out their frustrations on the lowly Kings, resulting in a 40-point laugher and the team's 50th victory of the season, in which all five starters scored in double figures. With only 13 regular-season games remaining, more of the same will be required for Chicago to keep pace with Boston in the race for the East's No. 1 spot and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Gaining the top spot is additionally crucial, as a first-round matchup with the young Pacers, the leading candidate for the conference's eighth seed is considered more favorable than facing either the surging 76ers or the free-falling yet dangerous Knicks, who are locked in a battle for the sixth seed. Moreover, the East's top seed, whether it's Chicago, Boston or even still-lurking Miami--how soon people forget the Heat's impressive December and January run--will have the luxury of avoiding one of the other two consensus Finals contenders in the conference in the second round, likely facing off with the Magic or Hawks.
The Bulls are regarded as having a friendlier slate down the season's stretch--their remaining opponents include the likes of the Bucks, Timberwolves, Pistons, Raptors, Cavaliers and Nets--than the Celtics, but they can't afford lackluster efforts in challenging games, such as Tuesday evening's affair at Atlanta's Phillips Arena. Capitalizing on both their momentum and good fortune would not only benefit their good fortune, but display the maturity evident of a potential NBA champion.