The Bulls Friday trailed except for a few seconds early in the first quarter and lost to the Atlanta Hawks 103-88.
It was an uninspired Bulls effort throughout with sloppy play producing turnovers, poor shooting choices leading to Atlanta runout scores and little ball movement. And this even with the Hawks having one of their poorest three-point shooting games of the season at seven for 34. The Bulls gave up more than 100 points for the 12th consecutive game. The Hawks are 3-0 over the Bulls this season.
The Bulls were led by Doug McDermott with 20 points and Pau Gasol with 16 points and 17 rebounds, though on six of 22 shooting. Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 19 points and Paul Millsap had eight offensive rebounds.
The Hawks moved past the Bulls at 32-27 while the Bulls fell to 30-27. The Bulls play streaking Portland in the United Center Satuerday. The Bulls fell back into a tie with Charlotte for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, a game and a half ahead of ninth place Detroit.
Derrick Rose remained out Friday with hamstring and knee pains, and it was no closer for Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic, both out still for considerable time with Butler’s knee injury and Mirotic’s appendix surgery. Joakim Noah is out for the season with knee surgery. Pau Gasol seemed to be feeling better after a bout with the flu Wednesday.
It was an ominous start that would suggest a harbinger of the evening’s events. The Hawks got three offensive rebounds in the first minute on the way to seven in the first quarter and 11 second chance points as Atlanta led 26-21 after one quarter. Gasol had seven points and five rebounds. The start of the second quarter again proved troublesome as with the injuries coach Fred Hoiberg had to go to a group of rookies with Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio. They basically ignored McDermott and continued to take isolation jumpers that enabled the Hawks to take a 38-25 lead. Hoiberg brought back in the starters, and McDermott got back in the offense and even added yet another highlight dunk to his recent resume in a 13-4 run that enabled the Bulls to pull back within 51-44 at halftime. McDermott had 10 points and a team high three offensive rebounds in the second quarter to rally the Bulls. Though 10 first half turnovers damaged the Bulls’ early efforts.
The Bulls had a tough start to the third quarter, plagued still by turnovers and the Hawks finally making threes after a shocking two of 20 threes in the first half. The Bulls were one of 10. The Hawks surged to a 72-54 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter. The Bulls got back within 73-65, but a long rebound for a fast break and a turnover for another enabled the Hawks to head into the fourth quarter leading 79-67. Gasol had 14 points and 15 rebounds through three quarters. The Bulls couldn’t make much progress to open the fourth and still trailed 88-76 with just under six minutes remaining.