POSTED: Mar 28, 2016 12:59 PM ET
Pau Gasol will look to keep the Bulls in the playoff picture with a win over the Hawks tonight.
The Hawks have been dominant over the last month, posting the second best record in the league, 13-3, since February 26. Atlanta is fueled by their defense, which ranks No. 1 in the league since January 1. The Hawks will look to keep this league-leading defense going against the Bulls, who Atlanta is 3-0 against this season. A win tonight would mark the Hawks' first season sweep over the Bulls since 2008-09. To avoid the sweep, Chicago will need to slow down Al Horford, who has torched the Bulls for an average of 22.3 points on 69.8 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.3 blocks in three games this season.
As Atlanta climbs the Eastern Conference standings, Chicago is tumbling down and looks to be on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. The Bulls are 14-24 since January 9, which is the 23rd worst record in the league over that span. By comparison, Chicago was 22-12 on the season before this dismal stretch. Chicago hasn't been good on either side of the ball since January 9, ranking sixth worst in offensive rating and seventh worst in defensive rating. A return to the United Center tonight should help the Bulls some as they are 24-13 there this season and 8 of their last 11 overall. However, the Hawks have won six of their last seven on the road and beat the Bulls in Chicago on February 10.
The GameTime crew discuss what is wrong with the Bulls as they chase a playoff spot.
Both teams need a win tonight to keep pace in the crowded Eastern Conference. The Hawks have vaulted to the No. 3 seed, but trail No. 2 seed Toronto by 6.0 games, so it appears No. 3 is as high as they can climb. The Hawks have a 0.5 game lead over Boston, 1.0 game lead over Miami and 1.5 game lead over No. 6 seed Charlotte. This four-team grouping likely will be the No. 3-6 seeds when the season ends on April 14, so every game matters for Atlanta as they hope to stay in either the No. 3 or 4 seeds to secure home-court advantage in the first round. On the other side, Chicago enters tonight's action in the No. 9 seed, 2.0 games behind No. 8 seed Detroit and 2.5 games behind No. 7 seed Indiana. A loss tonight would make the road even steeper for Chicago as they look to climb back into the race with 10 games to go.
After a four-game losing streak, the Celtics have rediscovered their groove and strung together four straight wins heading into tonight's game in Los Angeles. They fall into the same four-team group as the Hawks, Heat and Hornets. They sit in the No. 4 seed now, but could jump the Hawks for the No. 3 seed with a win and an Atlanta loss tonight. In their lone matchup with the Clippers this season, Boston won in an overtime thriller, 139-134. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 36 points (on 12-for-21 shooting) and 11 assists, while Jared Sullinger added 21 points (on 10-for-15) and 11 rebounds. Will these two players be able to have a repeat performance tonight?
The Clippers punched their ticket to the postseason with Sunday's win over the Nuggets. They hold a commanding, 4.5 game lead over the No. 5 seed Grizzlies and trail the No. 3 seed Thunder by 5.5 games. So, the No. 4 seed is likely where the Clippers will remain for the final two-plus weeks of the regular season. Defense has been the key for L.A. since Blake Griffin went down with injury on Christmas Day. In the 42 games since Griffin's injury, the Clippers have the fourth best defensive rating in the league and will look to keep it up once Griffin returns to the lineup later this week. Griffin was medically cleared to return to action on Sunday and served the first of his four-game suspension during the Clippers' win over Denver. If everything goes according to plan, Griffin will be back in the lineup against the Wizards on Sunday, April 3.
NBA.com staff reports