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Bulls vs. Hawks Final Score: Hawks 109, Bulls 94

Quick Thought: Not this time, not this time.

Game Summary:

The challenge to ardent Bird Watchers is to accentuate the positives in the Hawks 109-94 win at home over the Chicago Bulls.

The challenge is to ignore the layups that didn't go down for the Bulls, or the aberrant 75 percent clip at which the Hawks made three point shots.

The challenge is to focus on the increased activity and ball movement on offense, which led to 32 Hawks assists. To focus on the 16 steals the Hawks created and the generally more purposeful defensive movement, which challenged every single Bulls shot of meaning.

You can look at the 17 offensive rebounds yielded or the measly 6 free throws and wring your hands about sustainability of the Hawks recent emergence against the top teams of the East.

Your choice, of course, but I am going to stay on the positives about this roster and this team, the obvious chemistry of the second team, the upgrade of sixth man Tracy McGrady in all around play, and enjoy that, unlike the Tuesday night game in Chicago, when the Hawks turned loose a 19 point lead and allowed Chicago to come back and win, the Hawks at home Saturday night did no such thing, instead turning back the Bulls and giving the Hawks two big wins over two Eastern conference rivals.

Deep(er) Thoughts:

Staying in the greeny positives of the previous stanza, you can look at the four games as a whole, the two each against the Heat and Bulls, and feel that the Hawks were in better position to sweep than either of their more heralded opponents.

What about those four games, and the Bobcats game in between, doesn't tell you that this team can ball with anyone in the East? What about those games doesn't say that the bench is more diverse and ready to produce at an NBA level more so than previous Hawks teams in this run?

This was a team on the third game of a grueling three-for, in which they played the minutes equivalent of three games inside of two after the triple overtime Heat game and Friday night's overtime win in Charlotte. Yet the Hawks were the team with bounce in their step, challenging everything, and scoring 63 first half points against the tough Chicago Bulls defense.

This stretch was held up by many as a litmus test of what this team is and can be, and the results point to a very positive outlook, as long as the health of the core players hold up.

Game Balls:

As good as he is around the cup, it's a wonder Josh Smith ever wants to shoot from the outside. Alas, he does, and he did tonight, but you can live with him shooting as long as the other side of the ledger, the one that showed tonight with 5 assists, 6 blocked shots, and 4 steals, comes packaged with it. Smith was also active around the basket and finished with 25 points and 5 rebounds as well. He has shown you the good Josh Smith two games in a row. Enjoy them.

Jeff Teague is making it hard to envision Kirk Hinrich coming back and starting for this team, especially when playing the Bulls. Teague did a great job creating, scoring, and defending Derrick Rose (3-10, 8 points/6 assists) Saturday night. Teague also helped the Hawks shoot a fantastic 57 percent as a team for the night by handing out 8 assists and shooting 6-8 himself for 12 points. Jeff's portion of that 16 steal goodness was 5 of his own, including one great lift from Kyle Korver, who threw Teague the ball after a basket and then watched as Teague jogged by him to dunk it through,

From the beginning tip, Al Horford set the tone by stealing the Joakim Noah tip and then immediately taking it to the basket and scoring. Despite only playing 24 minutes, Horford was 7-8 from the field for 14 points. He also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists during his run on the court and joined Smith in challenging all shots inside, adding 2 blocks to Smith's 6.

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