The Hawks came in looking to put Friday’s ugly loss in Philly behind them, and they did so in grand style, clobbering the Bulls 92-75 in their fourth game in five nights. Atlanta found their rhythm in the second quarter and never looked back.
The first quarter started with both teams unable to score. The first score came by Joakim Noah three minutes into the game, and with 2:55 to play the score was 11-10 Hawks. Luol Deng asserted himself at that point scoring six points in the final three minutes to lead the Bulls to a 21-17 first quarter lead. The Bulls started slow, but improved to a solid 47.4% from the field, while the Hawks shot just 36.8% from the field.
The second quarter started much better as both offenses found their rhythm, with the Hawks shooters finding their stroke. Lou Williams, who got his first start of the year, hit a pair of threes early in the second quarter, and the Hawks got out on the break. The fast-break scores, most notably a lob from Lou to Josh Smith and a Lou posterization of Kirk Hinrich, brought the Philips crowd into the game for the first time. After the game, Lou shrugged it off as if it was nothing. Asked where that ranked on the "Lou Williams Highlight Reel," he laughed, "it was light."
The Hawks fed off that energy and kept running, jumping out to a 53-37 halftime lead. Atlanta out-scored the Bulls 36-16 in the second, and pointed to the defensive effort as the catalyst for their offense.
"I thought our defense triggered our offense," Larry Drew said. "We were energized defensively, and it carried over right from the other end. Guys were sharp with everything we did. We contested shots and ran."
"We turned up the pressure defensively," said Al Horford. "I think both teams were a little sluggish after last night’s game, with both teams traveling here and everything. After the first quarter, it was about getting our legs back, and then we stepped it up after that."
Atlanta cruised through the second half on their way to a 92-75 victory. The Hawks were able to rest their starters much of the fourth without giving up much of their lead. Atlanta finished the game shooting 49.4% from the field and pounded the Bulls on the glass, out-rebounding them 45-31 (12-6 OR). After the game, head coach Larry Drew said, "This was our most complete game." He pointed to the energy from Jeff Teague, who finished with 11 points and eight assists.
"That was probably one of our most energized wins thus far this year," said Drew. "I thought at the very beginning our guys did a really good job, and it started with Jeff Teague and his energy defensively at the very beginning. It was a very clear contrast from last night, where I thought he was a little laid back and didn’t really exert himself defensively. I thought tonight he did a phenomenal job with that. When he does that he just gets us going. It’s something we talk to Jeff about and something we’ll stay on him about constantly."
Lou Williams had his first start of the season, and first start in 173 games, and rewarded Drew’s decision by scoring 16 points. Lou added four rebounds and three assists and helped provide an energetic lift for the Hawks.
Al Horford led the Hawks with 20 points and 10 rebounds and shot 9-for-12 from the field. Al had been 9-for-35 in the past three nights, but he just kept shooting, knowing eventually they’d start falling again.
"I was taking the same kind of shots [before]. They felt good [the last few games], they just weren’t falling. Tonight they were. It was a better night. But more importantly, we won, and we playing the right way."
The Hawks improve to 16-9 and move a game and a half up on the Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. They have three days off before taking on the Pistons on December 26. While the break will be nice after playing four games in five nights, Larry Drew said, "I wish I could bottle up this energy." Once again, the enigma that is this Hawks team showed how dominant they can be despite coming off their worst loss of the season the night before, but, as always, it’s a matter of them playing to their potential. We’ll just have to wait until Wednesday to find out which Hawks team shows up for the Pistons, but let’s hope we see more of this Hawks team this season.