By Rory Sharrock
ATLANTA – With the dusk of the 2013-14 regular season looming over the horizon, the Bulls look to finish the year strong and the first order of business on their checklist is securing a road win versus the Hawks.
The Bulls enter tonight’s contest having won eight of their last 12, a stretch that includes victories over powerhouse squads Miami, Houston and Indiana. This is the momentum the team wants to build upon as it preps for the playoffs.
“Every year is different. A lot of teams are fighting for things down the stretch and that’s what makes it so interesting,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “It’s more in-conference play and teams going head-to-head. When that happens, it makes things interesting and you want to be playing your best going into the playoffs.”
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Defense has been the calling card for Chicago this year and the tenacity of its frontcourt is once again a focal point to defeat a sub-.500 Hawks team that is currently eighth in the conference standings.
Throughout the year, Joakim Noah has been the catalyst in the paint. However, the rotating tandem of Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in the low block has paid huge dividends, and this formula will be on display as Chicago aims to ground the Hawks. Boozer has had the hot hand as of late, averaging 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds in his last five games. His superb performance all came while playing only 24 minutes during each outing.
“One of the strengths of the club is our guys up front. They score in different ways, all of them rebound well and that’s a big plus for us,” said Thibodeau. “Carlos has been playing very well with his all-around play. He’s aggressively taking the ball to the basket and rebounding. Taj and he are playing around the same amount of minutes. Jo’s [Noah] a bit more and Nazr [Mohammed] gives us good spot minutes with size.”