Circus over, schedule not any easier for Bulls

What is Chicago's reward for finishing with its first winning record on its circus trip since 1997-98?

Three days rest between Saturday's win over Sacramento, giving the Bulls a 4-3 record for a trip on which they had been 10-61 since Michael Jordan's last season with the Bulls seems to be the reward. It's the most rest the team has had after this trip since the 2004-05 season.

And the Bulls will need it.  

Chicago (9-6) is 10th in Athlon Sports Week 6 Power Rankings, but no other team in the top 10 has as many games against top-tier teams over the next week as the Bulls do.

It starts Wednesday with a home game against the fifth-ranked Orlando Magic, followed by a trip to third-ranked Boston, then back home to take on a Houston team Chicago defeated 95-92 to start the circus trip. The Bulls then open next week with a Monday game against No. 9 Oklahoma City at home.

"The big thing for us is our schedule doesn't get easier when we go home," coach Tom Thibodeau said in an ESPNChicago.com report. "Our schedule actually gets, in some cases you could make the case that it's tougher. We have to recognize what's in front of us and when we get to practice we got to get to work."

Chicago PF Carlos Boozer (hand) should make his season debut by at least the weekend.

Not much else is on the slate over the next week between top-tier teams.

Indiana is quickly rising up the rankings. Three weeks ago the Pacers were 23rd, but they are knocking on the top 10's door with their No. 11 ranking. Indiana defeated the Lakers in Los Angeles for just the second time since Feb. 14, 1999 on Sunday night, and will take on No. 4 Utah on Wednesday.

The second-ranked Mavericks, winners of their last six, will travel to Utah on Friday. If Dallas can take care of Minnesota on Wednesday and Utah can do the same to Indiana, the two teams will meet with seven-game win streaks on the line.

On Saturday, the resurgent Atlanta Hawks will travel to Miami for a matchup of what could end up being the two teams that will vie for second place in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.

New Orleans and San Antonio take to the court for the second Sunday in a row, this time in Texas. Each team had 17-point leads the last time they met before San Antonio pulled away for the 14-point win. New Orleans won the first meeting on Oct. 30. Sunday's game will be the second-to-last meeting of the year between the Southwest Division foes — Jan. 22 being the last.

And finally, Atlanta will go for the top dog in the Southeast when it travels to Orlando for a Monday night game. The Magic won the first meeting 93-89 when the two met in Orlando Nov. 8.  

For only the second time this season, a team holds the top spot for consecutive weeks. San Antonio has had it the last two; the Lakers held the top spot for the first three weeks. The Western Conference still dominates the top 10 with seven teams.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

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