Playing without Derrick Rose (groin) for the eighth consecutive game, the Chicago Bulls pulled out an easy 98-77 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at Phillips Arena. The Bulls improved to 41-11 this season, which remained good for the best record in the NBA.
The Bulls placed five players in double figures against Hawks (30-22), who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back set. Both Luol Deng (22 points, five three-pointers) and Carlos Boozer (20, nine rebounds) reached the 20-point plateau and shot a combined 16-for-27 from the field, while Taj Gibson dropped 19 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes of action. John Lucas III poured in 10 points – all of which in the second quarter – to go along with five assists and a game-high plus-minus of plus-19. Joakim Noah added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Although the Bulls got off to a slow start once again, trailing 13-5 within the first five minutes of the game, they cut the deficit to 23-21 through one quarter of play. Then, Chicago’s “Bench Mob” group of Lucas, Kyle Korver, Deng, Gibson and Omer Asik took the floor and outworked and outplayed their counterparts. The Bulls also shot the ball well from three-point range and outscored the Hawks 49-29 over the final 18 minutes, 28 seconds of the first half to take a 54-42 lead at intermission.
The Bulls started the second half just like they had began the first, as the Hawks went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter, cutting the visitors’ lead to 56-52. But coach Tom Thibodeau’s bunch responded strongly and put together a 13-4 run after that en route to taking a 76-60 lead after three frames. The fourth quarter didn’t feature many highlights for the Hawks, although they committed two hard fouls on Gibson in as many possessions. As for the Bulls, Boozer had an emphatic left-handed dunk in the final period, while Lucas fed Gibson for an alley-oop dunk, a sequence in which the two have been involved several times this season.
It’s no secret that Thibodeau hasn’t been pleased with his team’s effort over the last three games, and unlike Monday night’s 108-91 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Bulls imposed their will on the opponent and made the Hawks – who were led by Josh Smith’s 19 points – look demoralized after the home squad’s early hot start. They crushed the Hawks on the glass, 45-36, and dished out 25 assists to just seven turnovers, two days after committing 16 miscues in a disappointing defeat. It was an effort that Thibodeau will be more than happy with as his team prepares to finally put out a healthy roster.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Thursday before facing the Detroit Pistons (18-32) on Friday night at the United Center. Both Rose and Rip Hamilton (shoulder) could return for that tilt.