Thursday's victory against Detroit in the NBA Paris Game supplied Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan with a sense of optisme prudente.
That would be "cautious optimism" en anglais.
"Do I feel like we've turned the corner, so to speak?" Donovan said. "I don't want to say that because there havebeen some other times that I felt we did."
At any rate, Chicago totes a two-game winning streak into Monday's visit from the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls will aim to keep the run going in their first action since returning stateside.
After starting the season with strong hopes, the Bulls have been uneven at best through the first 45 games, and they came into the week sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, good for the final spot in the play-in tournament.
Monday starts a stretch in which the Bulls will play consecutive games against teams directly ahead of them in the standings -- Atlanta and Indiana -- before visiting struggling Charlotte and Orlando to close a three-game road trip.
"It's gut-cutting time now, every single game," Chicago leading scorer DeMar DeRozan said. "We showed the first half of the season that we can compete with the top teams in this league. Now it's about putting it together every night because these games, we can't get back.
"Every game is just as important as the next. As long as we have that mindset about every single game, every single practice from here on out, we've got a good chance to put ourselves in a good position."
Atlanta, which hasn't ventured east of Toronto in the past month, will be playing for the third time in four nights.
On Saturday, the team squandered a 19-point third-quarter lead to visiting Charlotte, as the Hawks' five-game winning streak ended with a 122-118 loss to the Hornets.
"They played faster and made some shots. They played really fast, made a lot of threes," the Hawks' Trae Young said. "It was good. They pushed the pace on us and that got them back in the game."
Young scored 25 points despite closing on a 1-for-12 slump from the floor. That was one point off the team lead by Dejounte Murray. De'Andre Hunter finished tied with Young, marking a season high.
A hot start sparked Hunter, who scored 13 points in the second quarter to reach 18 by the half.
Hunter credited good ball movement for the surge.
"The ball has energy," he said. "So obviously, when the ball is moving, you know guys play harder. You know, guys play harder on defense and offense. So yeah, that's pretty much it."
The Bulls and Hawks have split their past 10 meetings, including the first two this season, with both matchups coming in Atlanta.
DeRozan is averaging 31 points against the Hawks this season, including 28 in a 110-108 victory on Dec. 21 that saw the Bulls avenge an overtime loss earlier in the month on AJ Griffin's buzzer-beater.
The teams are set to meet at the United Center April 4.
--Field Level Media