In one regard, the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks are alike. They both lost their best player to a season-ending injury early on -- Derrick Rose and Al Horford, respectively. They both score about as many points as they give up: 92.5/92.3 for Chicago and 101.5/101.5 for Atlanta. That's about it, however. The Bulls continue to play as hard as ever and look like a lock playoff team.
Lid On The Basket For Bulls
Chicago (27-28 ATS, 22-33 O/U at sportsbooks) had a five-game winning streak snapped with Sunday's 93-79 loss in Miami; perhaps the Bulls played a bit flat once learning that LeBron James would sit it out with a broken nose? Chicago generally plays the Heat extremely tough in the regular season. Joakim Noah continued his best season with 20 points and 15 rebounds against the Heat, but without Rose the Bulls simply struggle to score. They shot only 35.8 percent against Miami and were 6-for-21 from long range. D.J. Augustin, who has mostly been very good for Chicago, was 0-for-10 from the field. The starting backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and rookie Tony Snell was a combined 6-for-20.
Chicago was called for a 24-second violation seven times. The Bulls' 12-point third quarter was the lowest scoring quarter against the Heat all season. Chicago, the NBA's lowest-scoring team, has failed to top 87 points in its past five losses. It didn't help Chicago's cause that starting guard Jimmy Butler sat out with a rib injury. He's questionable for this one. Butler averages 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds. He's a very good defender and Dwayne Wade went off for 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists without having to worry about Butler.
No Millsap, No Problem
The Hawks (27-27-1 ATS, 34-21 O/U at sportsbooks) ended an eight-game losing streak with a 107-98 victory over the visiting Knicks on Saturday. New York blew a 17-point third-quarter lead even though the Hawks were playing without their current best player as well, forward Paul Millsap. Atlanta got 30 points from Mike Scott -- playing heavy minutes in Millsap's absence -- and 28 from Jeff Teague, who reportedly was close to being traded to New York before last week's deadline. Atlanta finished 16 of 31 from long range.
Millsap isn't going to play Tuesday, either. He's averaging 17.6 points and 8.3 rebounds. The frontcourt is going to be really thin again because both Gustavo Ayon and Pero Antic are expected to sit again as well. Antic does appear close but hasn't played since Jan. 22. He became a starter once Horford was lost. Ayon has missed the past three games with a shoulder problem. Thus look for the small Hawks to start Elton Brand at "center" and continue going with three guards in Teague, Shelvin Mack and Kyle Korver. Scott is the only big man left on the bench. That could mean big nights for Chicago's Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson.
This is the third of four meetings, with the first two in Chicago. On Jan. 4 the Bulls were 5-point favorites for sports bettors and won 91-84. Mike Dunleavy had 11 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, who held the Hawks to 37.2 percent shooting and 8-for-28 from long range. Boozer sat that one out for Chicago, which still had Luol Deng (17 points, 11 rebounds). Millsap had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
On Feb. 11, the Bulls won 100-85 as 1.5-point favorites on NBA odds. Noah had his first triple-double of the season and fourth of career with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists, while Gibson had 24 points and 12 rebounds. It was Chicago's fourth straight win in the series and sixth in a row at home vs. Atlanta. Boozer sat out. Millsap led the Hawks with 15 points, but they were dominated on the boards 57-28.
NBA free picks: We'll take Chicago +1 and the under in our NBA picks. Noah ripped the team's intensity level following Sunday's defeat and the Bulls rarely play two straight bad games. The Bulls are 5-1 ATS in their past six after a loss while the Hawks have covered just three of the past 16 Tuesday games. The under is 10-1 in the past 11 meetings.