Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Hawks struggle in the second half and fall to the Chicago Bulls 93-76
The Atlanta Hawks folded in the second half behind a suffocating defensive effort from the Chicago Bulls to lose 93-76. Chicago came into the game shorthanded and on a back-to-back, yet it was the Hawks that were a step slow to every loose ball and every key rebound in the second half.
Atlanta once again fell behind early but finished the second quarter with a flurry to take a 44-43 lead at the half. Josh Smith scored 16 of his 19 in the first half as the Hawks were able to get him inside and out on the fast break. However, the Bulls came out in the third quarter and clamped down outscoring Atlanta 26-16 in the quarter and 50-32 in the second half.
Atlanta shoots 39 percent from the floor, 32 percent from the three-point line and hits 53 percent of its free throws. Chicago won the battle on the boards 53-45 including an 18-12 advantage on the offensive glass. That performance was without Chicago's two leading rebounders in Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Mostly this loss was about Chicago's defense and a commitment to Tom Thibodeau's system. There was rarely a breakdown and when there was, the Bulls used a good hustle play to overcome it.
Smith's 19 led the Hawks and he added 13 rebounds and five assists but wasn't nearly the factor in the second half that he was in the first. Jeff Teague left the game in the first quarter with a hip contusion but returned to score 16 points and hand our four assists. Al Horford finished with 14 points and 12 boards but struggled to finish many plays at the rim and went 7-18 from the field. Kyle Korver added 10 points including three more threes. Korver extended his consecutive games streak with a three to 40.
Thibodeau again rode his starters and had good success. Four Chicago players played at least 40 minutes and three played more than 45. Luol Deng finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds while Taj Gibson was a monster on the interior with 19 points and 19 rebounds. Nate Robinson once again tortured the Hawks with 20 points, eight assists and three steals.
The Hawks get a couple of days to think about this loss before hitting the road for a tough matchup with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.