The Atlanta Hawks won their second straight game, defeating the Chicago Bulls 120-105 and ending the Bulls’ 6-game win streak. Al Horford did it all in this one, recording his 10th double-double of the season and finishing with a season-high 33 points and adding 10 rebounds, six assists, a steal and four blocked shots.
The Hawks never trailed throughout the game as they seemed to have an answer whenever Chicago made a run. The Hawks’ biggest lead was 19 as they focused on using speed to disrupt the flow of the Bulls’ up-tempo offense. The ball moved well, resulting in six players scoring in double digits and totaling 33 assists as a team.
Horford talked about how the team wanted to get off to a good start, especially against a top-tier Eastern Conference team.
“We understand this was a good measuring stick game for us,” said Horford. “They’re a really good team. They just won six straight. We knew we needed to come out and the effort needed to be there. We’ve been playing hard but we needed to play harder. We put an emphasis on that and, from the beginning of the game, we did it. They’re a good team. They kept making runs at us, but we were able to hold them off.”
Derrick Rose, who struggled from the field shooting just 5-for-15 for 17 points, adding five assists with six turnovers, talked about how the Hawks kept them at bay the whole game.
“It started in the first quarter tonight,” said Rose. “They got the lead and we were trying to play catch-up the entire game. We got within two, but tonight we just didn’t have the energy on the defensive side of the ball.”
In the first half the Hawks’ defense swarmed the Bulls, contesting several shot attempts and causing five turnovers in first quarter and four in the second. Kent Bazemore brought his usual high energy to the starting unit. He took on the assignment of guarding Jimmy Butler, who averages 22 points this season. Bazemore limited Butler to just nine points on 2-for-7 shooting and a minus-10 plus-minus. Paul Millsap also made his stamp in the first half defensively with three blocked shots and two steals.
The offense, sparked by the defensive effort, scored 64 points in the first half with Horford scoring 15 while Kyle Korver (13 points, 3-for-6 from 3-point range), Jeff Teague (12 points, six assists) and Mike Scott (14 points, three rebounds, three assists) contributed 10 points apiece. The Hawks looked to attack the bigger Bulls team, scoring 32 points in the paint compared to just 18 from Chicago. That helped open up good looks from beyond the arc as the team poured in 21 points from three, shooting 58%.
In the third quarter, the Hawks struggled to contain Jimmy butler as he scored 14 of his team-high 27 points once Bazemore picked up his fourth foul. The Bulls began to use their size and attacked the basket, attempting 15 of its 31 free throws in the quarter and cutting the Hawks’ lead to 77-75 on Rose’ free throw with 3:38 remaining.
At the start of the fourth, the Hawks amped up its defensive pressure while limiting fouls. The Bulls only reached the free throw line five times and shot just 40% from the field in the final period. Dennis Schröder played well most of the game with his best work in the second half, scoring 10 of his 13 points (the 19th time he’s scored in double figures this season) and dishing four of his eight assists.
Coach Budenholzer spoke about how Schröder has performed recently.
“Dennis was very good,” said Budenholzer. “It’s three or four games in a row he’s come in really focused, brought an edge to us [and] brought a toughness to us on defense.”
Horford did alot of his damage in the fourth with 12 points. He converted when his number was called in the half court and ran the floor well for a couple fast break points. His partner in crime Millsap’s play should not be forgotten as he scored nine of his 18 points in the second half, marking the 14th consecutive game he’s scored in double figures. Millsap added a season-high six blocks with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Despite being undersized against Taj Gibson (10 points, four rebounds) and Pau Gasol (10 points, seven rebounds, five assists), Atlanta’s front court outplayed and out-rebounded them. Coach Budenholzer spoke about the two-headed monster and their impact.
“We always are talking about how unique Al and Paul are, and how many different things they do,” said Budenholzer. “Those skills hopefully can counter sometimes what may be perceived as maybe not a strength, or that we’re undersized. Some nights it goes against us. But tonight the skills and the athleticism and the versatility were obviously very good for us.”
Nikola Mirotić added 27 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls. The Hawks head on the road for two games starting with division foe the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday at 7 PM EST while the 22-13 Bulls travel to face the Wizards on Monday. The loss dropped the Bulls into a tie with the Raptors for the second-best record in the East while the 23-15 Hawks pulled within a half game of those teams.