The Atlanta Hawks Friday defeated the Bulls 102-93 in a most unusual way, a band of Bulls benchers cutting a 30-point fourth quarter deficit to five in the last minutes. It forced the Hawks to bring their starters back with 90 seconds left to save what appeared to be a night long blowout victory.
A Bulls group that alternated with Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic, Denzel Valentine, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser and Bobby Portis, showing the energy and interest the starters didn’t, brought the Bulls back within five points with just over a minute left. The Hawks desperately brought back their best players while the Bulls starters watched. Grant had 12 points, Valentine 10 and Zipser 10.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 19 points. He shot six of eight and Robin Lopez had 10 points on five of seven. The other starters were a combined six for 21. Butler was the only starter who attempted a free throw in a passive starters’ effort. Dwyane Wade was two of 10 for four points, this coming despite the Bulls coming off two off days. Dennis Schroder dominated the Bulls guards for 23 points. The Hawks led by more than 30 points most of the third quarter with neither team’s starters playing in the fourth quarter until the Hawks’ late.
The Bulls, 21-23, return to the United Center Saturday to play the Sacramento Kings. The Hawks are 25-18.
The Bulls had Taj Gibson back from missing the Dallas game with ankle soreness. And he scored early to give the Bulls a 4-2 lead, their last for the game as the Hawks drove the ball past the Bulls for easy layups, run outs and short jumpers. First it was Schroder, pushing past Michael Carter-Williams for eight points that brought a quick substitution to Rajon Rondo five minutes into the game with Atlanta ahead 13-6. But it didn’t stop the Hawks, who repeatedly got easily to the basket and then running off Bulls turnovers, eight in the first quarter. It was another poor opening by the starters. The Bulls had lost earlier this season in Atlanta despite 39 from Butler. The Hawks then went on an 11-4 run thanks to four Bulls turnovers in five possessions and then closed the quarter with 11 straight points for a 35-13 lead after one quarter. Atlanta made 15 of 19 shots in the first quarter, but to their credit with swift ball movement and unselfish play. The Bulls failed to change their attitude coming out in the second quarter as the Hawks opened with a three, and though the Hawks only scored on one of their next seven possessions, the Bulls failed to challenge. Former Bull Mike Dunleavy then made a pair of threes and Schroder scored on a three-point play for a 49-19 Atlanta lead. Butler then exerted himself, even taking Schroder on defense. Butler scored six straight points to send the Hawks into a timeout with five minutes left in the half leading 49-26. But there was only so much the Bulls All-Star could do as the Hawks began smothering him with two and three defenders. Paul Millsap added a driving score and a three and the Hawks were flying again, taking a 65-36 halftime lead. Butler had 17 points on five of six shots for the Bulls. The rest of the team was a combined nine for 32 shooting in the first half. The Bulls were three of 17 on threes in the half, Butler two for two. The Hawks still were shooting 68 percent at halftime with eight of 12 threes. Schroder had 16 points and Millsap 12.
The Bulls then committed a turnover to start the second half, a harbinger of things to come thereafter as the Hawks basically ended the game in the third quarter as they went ahead 87-53 and closed the third quarter leading 87-57. It was as poor as effort throughout three quarters as the Bulls have had all season as coach Fred Hoiberg went with reserves for the rest of the game and finally got the hustle the team needed.