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By Sam Smith | 4.15.2015 | 9:31 p.m. CT
The Bulls Wednesday defeated the Atlanta Hawks 91-85 to close the regular season 50-32, good for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls now will open the playoff Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls were 3-1 against the Bucks this season. The Hawks finished 60-22 in first in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls got 23 points from Aaron Brooks, 21 points from Jimmy Butler and 18 points and 13 rebounds from Pau Gasol. Both teams went mostly with reserves in the fourth quarter with Brooks and Jimmy Butler finishing strong to rally the Bulls after they trailed by five early in the fourth.
The Bulls got off to an indifferent and sloppy start against an Atlanta team they hadn’t defeated this season, the only one in the NBA, falling behind 16-6 on poor shooting (31.6 percent and one of nine threes) before getting within 22-17 after one thanks to a boost from Aaron Brooks. Nikola Mirotic gave the Bulls an lead early in the second quarter with a pair of threes and a clever reverse. But the Hawks with their unselfish ball movement and hustling defense pulled away with a closing 14-4 run in the last 3:30 for a 49-42 Atlanta halftime lead. The Bulls looked beaten after halftime as Derrick Rose didn’t play in the second half and the Hawks took an 18-point lead. But behind Brooks clever play and some gritty recovery of loose balls, the Bulls went on a 17-2 run and trailed 72-70 after three.
1. Aaron Brooks got the Bulls back into the game after a horrific start with a potpourri of his unique shots as he was the only Bull to score the last 4:33 after the Bulls fell behind 16-6. His presence helps give the Bulls their deepest bench in Tom Thibodeau’s tenure.
2. Nikola Mirotic continues to show it’s going to be difficult to keep him on the bench in the playoffs the way he rallied the Bulls after a slow first quarter and filled up the box score in the first half with two threes, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
3. Jimmy Butler’s 21 points gave him a 20-point average for the season for the first time in his career, Pau Gasol recorded his 54th double/double for the fourth most in team history, the first three from Artis Gilmore and Nazr Mohammed played in his 1,000th NBA game. Derrick Rose played just the first half and had two points in 10 minutes to rest for the playoffs