The Bulls Wednesday suffered a discouraging defeat, losing a 10-point lead in the last three minutes and the game, 119-114.
It was one of the most difficult defeats of the season considering the play of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade and the late lead.
Butler had 40 points and Wade had 33. Doug McDermott with 10 points was the only other Bulls player to score in double figures. But it was 17 of 30 three pointers from Atlanta that doomed the Bulls. Dennis Schroder had 24 points for Atlanta and Paul Millsap 21. Dwight Howard had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bulls fell back to 23-24 while the Hawks are 27-19.
Jerian Grant was back at starting point guard, but it was Wade and Butler taking a more active role to start the game and enabling the Bulls to shoot out to a 15-6 lead five minutes into the game. Butler and Wade have tended to take a more passive role early in games with the team going to inside to Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson. But with Butler’s three to open the game, the Bulls took the opening initiative with nine Wade points in the first seven minutes. The Hawks had won the last six against the Bulls, and they pushed back within 21-18 with three minutes left in the first. The Hawks added another score from Thabo Sefolosha, but Nikola Mirotic and Butler closed the quarter with threes for a 29-22 Bulls lead after one quarter. Doug McDermott came out aggressive working with Rajon Rondo to start the second quarter as McDermott scored five points for a 36-29 Bulls lead with 8:42 left in the half. The Hawks got threes from Tim Hardaway and Schroder to get within 44-41, but the Bulls regained control again with the sterling play of Wade with his mid range shooting and Butler with his hard driving. They gave the Bulls a 55-44 lead with 1:37 left in the half. The Bulls went into halftime leading 59-51 with 20 points from Wade playing the second of a back to back and 17 from Butler.
The Hawks continued to remain within distance, getting an early Kent Bazemore three and pulling within 63-58. But the Bulls went to a 67-58 lead with 7:04 left in the third quarter on a powerful Butler seal and score and Grant throwing ahead to Gibson for a dunk. A Grant three gave the Bulls a 70-58 lead, but the Hawks came back with 11 straight points with three consecutive three pointers to cut the Bulls lead to 70-69 with 4:44 left in the third quarter. With that barrage of threes, the Hawks tied the game for the first time at 72 and then 74. But they could not get a lead as Butler scored the last seven Bulls points for an 83-78 Bulls lead after three quarters. Cristiano Felicio had a big start to the fourth with a roll play with Rondo and crash for a tipin for an 87-78 Bulls lead. But Dwight Howard was too physical for him and got the Hawks back within 91-87 with 8:20 left in the game. Wade and Butler, Inc., fired back with jumpers as the Bulls led 97-91 with 5:55 left. Butler with a four-point play and Wade with a baseline pullup gave the Bulls a 110-100 lead with 3:02 left, but the Hawks came out of a timeout swinging the ball around for three more threes to pull within 110-109 with 1:43 remaining. Atlanta took its first lead of the game at 111-110 on a Schroder drive with 1:12 left.