The Bulls Wednesday wasted terrific performances from Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade and a comeback from a 17-point second quarter deficit and lost 115-107 to the Atlanta Hawks.
Butler scored 39 points with four of seven three pointers and Wade had 25 points with two of five threes. The dynamic duo combined for 11 steals, six for Butler as the Bulls forced Atlanta into 24 turnovers. But Atlanta had a massive 52-18 advantage off the bench and outrebounded the Bulls 49-30 even as the Bulls have been one of the best rebounding teams. Atlanta had 13 offensive rebounds. Former Bulls Thabo Sefolosha led the Hawks with 20 points off the bench. Dwight Howard had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Atlanta shot 50.6 percent.
The Bulls fell back to 4-4 while the Hawks are 6-2. The Bulls play in Miami Thursday with Wade making his return to where he played for 13 seasons and won three titles.
It was the start of a road back to back for the Bulls, the first of eight of the next nine games on the road with the Western Conference “circus” trip starting next week and Wade’s return to Miami Thursday on national TNT. The Bulls had lost their last two on the road and were looking to get back to .500 away from Chicago for the season. But it was difficult with a hot shooting Atlanta team coming off a Tuesday win in Cleveland. The Hawks shot 56 percent in the first quarter, taking a 35-27 first quarter lead with a 17-7 close to the quarter. The Bulls shot well also, but Atlanta was dominant on the boards early with six offensive rebounds in the first quarter. The Hawks, namely Sefolosha, blew away the Bulls to open the second quarter, Sefolosha with 10 straight Hawks points for a 50-33 Atlanta lead. Wade was doing his best to hold off Atlanta with nine of the first 11 points of the quarter. Then it was Butler with a burst to match the Hawks, making four of five threes in the first half for 24 points as the Bulls got within 68-61 at halftime. It was Atlanta shooting 61 percent in the first half as the Bulls needed to do more than match shots. Butler and Wade combined for 41 of the Bulls 61 first half points. The next highest scoring Bulls player had six points. Led by Sefolosha, the Hawks reserves outscored the Bulls’ 33-4 in the first half. Atlanta had a 21-11 rebounding advantage.
The Bulls continued to ride Butler’s and Wade’s exceptional play with a 9-0 run ending on a Wade jumper to take a 74-73 lead with about eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Hawks seemed to be tiring from their game in Cleveland and the Bulls moved ahead 85-80 on a Doug McDermott run out dunk after a Butler steal. But with Tim Hardaway Jr. giving the Hawks a burst of energy and eight Atlanta points the Hawks took a 94-88 lead entering the fourth quarter. Going into the fourth, Wade and Butler had 66 points combined, 33 for Butler. Atlanta made the first move with a Hardaway three as Atlanta took a 103-92 lead with 8:30 remaining, But with Taj Gibson coming alive with tough inside play, the Bulls came back within 103-101 on a 9-0 run with 4:55 left in the game.