Despite playing without two starters, the Atlanta Hawks look like they're pulling out of a new year swoon. To help complete that turnaround, they'll need better play on the road.Atlanta (24-16) seeks its second win in its last six away from home Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls (18-24).
The Hawks have dropped seven of their last eight at the United Center, but the lone victory in that stretch came Nov. 11 with a 113-108 win.
After starting 1-5 in 2009, the Hawks enter Tuesday's game having won two of their last three following Monday's 87-84 home victory over Toronto. Joe Johnson continued his strong play of late, scoring 28 points, including key a jumper with 12.5 seconds left.
Atlanta's leading scorer - 22.2 points per game - has averaged 24.7 points over his last three games to move into the NBA's top 10 in scoring. In the Hawks' previous meeting with the Bulls on Dec. 27, Johnson had a career-high 41 points in a 129-117 home victory.
Atlanta played short-handed Monday as Al Horford missed his fifth straight game due to a bone bruise in his right knee, and Marvin Williams sat out after suffering a concussion in Friday's 119-114 loss at Golden State.
After Monday's win, Hawks coach Mike Woodson said he didn't know when Horford or Williams would play again.
Horford had season highs of 27 points and 17 rebounds in the last trip to Chicago and is the team's top rebounder - 8.7 per game. Williams has averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds this season.
"We're a little short-handed right now. We have to step up until Horford and Williams come back," Woodson said. "We're not going to rush them."
In their place, Atlanta's only remaining regular frontcourt starter, Josh Smith, had 22 points and a season-high 14 rebounds on Monday. He has averaged 21.3 points and 9.3 boards over the last four games.
When the Hawks have been successful, defense has played a key role. In their most recent victories, the Hawks held the Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers to less than 84 points.
Atlanta is 20-5 when allowing less than 100 points and 4-11 when letting opponents reach the century mark.
Over the last 11 games, the Bulls have alternated losing and winning streaks, and their inconsistent play continued with Monday's 102-98 loss in New York, their second defeat in as many games.
Chicago held a one-point lead with 1:10 remaining, but allowed the Knicks to score the game's final five points. Five of the Bulls' last six games have either required overtime or been decided by fewer than six points
Chicago has gone 2-4 in that stretch and 5-10 in its last 15.
"This is frustrating," Ben Gordon said. "It seems like a habit, almost. You do everything just to stay in the game, and when the game's on the line, we're just not coming through with the plays we need."
Since returning from a sprained left ankle a week ago, Luol Deng has averaged 16.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in his last five games, and has recorded three double-doubles in that time, including one in each of the last two contests.
Atlanta has won four of the last five meetings with the Bulls.