It was close, which isn’t good enough in basketball.
The Bulls Monday rallied from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit behind some unlikely shooting from Aaron Brooks to tie the game at 93 with 1:39 left. The Hawks went ahead 98-93 and Jimmy Butler answered with a four-point play with 19.6 seconds left. But Mike Dunleavy failed to get an open backdoor layup to fall and the Hawks went on to a 102-100 victory.
The Bulls loss left them at 36-37. It was the Bulls’ fourth straight loss. The Hawks went to 45-30.
The Bulls got 20 points from Derrick Rose, but he was eight of 25. Pau Gasol added 19 points and 11 rebounds and Jimmy Butler had 15 points on five of 16 shooting. Brooks had 16 points and six assists off the bench. Taj Gibson with 12 rebounds again was the Bulls most active defender. Atlanta was led by Jeff Teague with 26 points. The Bulls had a 58-47 rebounding edge, but they shot 38 percent.
It was back to the Bulls preferred starting lineup with Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Gibson and Gasol, just the fifth time they’ve started together. And with the air-it-out team meeting Sunday, it was a good start for the Bulls with a 12-3 lead with Gasol’s outside shooting and Gibson scoring along the baseline. The Hawks came out of the timeout to find Kyle Korver for a pair of threes to get back within 14-11. But with a Butler follow dunk on a Nikola Mirotic miss the Bulls went out a 12-5 run and went on to lead 31-22 after the first quarter.
The Bulls reserves, who have given up leads lately, continued a good stretch to start the second quarter with a Bobby Portis three and 40-28 lead. But that group tends to lose momentum with mistake play, and it happened again as a soft sideways pass was picked off for a fast break layup. Then a couple of quick shots to try to get it back led to a 11-0 Hawks run and Bulls timeout leading 40-37 with 6:34 in the half. But the Bulls continued to be dry as their scoreless streak continued to 12 possessions and missing 15 of 18 shots as Atlanta went ahead 43-40 with three minutes left in the half. It was 17-1 overall for the Hawks at that point. Atlanta continued to move the ball impressively and Paul Millsap made a pair of jumpers for a 52-45 Atlanta lead at halftime. It was a 30-14 Hawks second quarter.
The pattern of late continued with the Bulls falling behind and then reverting to isolation play. The Bulls made a move with a pair of Rose scores to get within 60-54. But as Atlanta crept ahead, Rose drew a technical foul with drive after drive and no foul calls, plus an obvious grab of his arm during a shot and no call. The Hawks took a 74-59 lead on a pair of Jeff Teague drives after Rose excited and led 80-71 going into the fourth quarter. The Hawks looked like they had the game with a 6-2 start to the fourth and 86-73 lead. But with the Bulls going to a three-guard backcourt with Brooks, Rose and Butler, the Bulls rallied back with a 16-4 run to pull within 92-91.