Deng, Hinrich Lift Bulls Over Hawks
Chicago 95, Atlanta 90
ATLANTA, March 11 (Ticker) -- The Chicago Bulls didn't play their best game, but got the victory they needed to keep alive their playoff hopes.
Luol Deng had 21 points and seven rebounds and Kirk Hinrich added 18 points as the Bulls posted a 95-90 triumph over the slumping Atlanta Hawks, who have dropped four of their last five games.
"The problem is our backs are against the wall every game right now," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "Somehow we have to convince the guys that."
Deng scored 13 points in the first half, when Chicago shot 52 percent (18-of-34) from the field and held Atlanta to 35 percent shooting (14-of-40) to take a 47-39 lead.
"I'm just playing with a lot of energy," said Deng, who shot 9-of-16 from the floor. "I feel great. I know we have about 20 games left. I feel like I am in good shape."
"(Friday) We could tell right from the beginning, we weren't all there," Skiles said. "Tonight, we could tell we were all there. We got really active. We put pressure on them. We were really in tune with our game plan."
Andres Nocioni drained a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the third quarter to push the edge to 73-62, but Atlanta was able to cut the deficit to 77-69 with just over nine minutes to go in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Josh Smith.
The Bulls scored the next six points to open their biggest lead, 83-69, on Chris Duhon's layup with 7:43 left before the Hawks made their final push, drawing within 88-83 with 2:40 to play. Al Harrington and Joe Johnson combined for 12 points in the 14-5 burst.
The Hawks had a chance to cut the lead to three points with 2:17 remaining, but Smith failed to convert a reverse dunk on a fast break. After both teams traded empty possessions, Hinrich hit a jumper with 1:21 remaining to put the Bulls ahead, 90-83.
"I wish he (Smith) could have just layed it in," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "He tried to dunk it. He missed it. We got the ball back and turned it over and that was pretty much the game right there."
"When you're going down the stretch like that, every play is valuable when you're coming back," said Johnson, who scored 22 points. "We had turnovers, which took the spirit out of us."
Smith hit two free throws with 30 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 91-88, but Hinrich made 4-of-4 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
The Hawks had been idle since Tuesday's victory over Golden State.
"We had too many days off," said Harrington, who had 32 points and 10 rebounds. "We lost our rhythm a little bit and our feel that we've been having."
Malik Allen scored 12 points and Duhon added 11 off the bench for the Bulls, who shot 47 percent (34-of-71) overall but made just 4-of-14 from behind the arc.
Smith collected 11 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which shot 41 percent (33-of-79) and scored 40 points in the paint.