The regular season came to an end for the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night in a 91-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls. The outcome ultimately had little meaning for Atlanta who sowed up the No. 1 seed in the playoffs long ago. The Hawks will take away several positives from the game with the biggest being the return of Paul Millsap who had missed the last five games with a shoulder injury.
Millsap was predictably rusty but played 27 minutes and didn't appear to be limited by the injury. He finished with five points on 2-9 shooting but added six rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots to his line. Perhaps most importantly, he looked more comfortable as the game wore on.
Atlanta's starting unit performed well through three quarters before exiting in the fourth. The Hawks came out of the gate quickly building a 16-4 lead to start. They led 49-42 at the half while holding the Bulls to just 39 percent shooting in the first half. Atlanta flexed their muscles early in the third as they pushed the lead to as many as 18 points before taking their foot off the gas for good.
The starters went to the bench for good to start the fourth quarter but Atlanta's bench unit picked up the fight. Mike Muscala knocked down a three to cut the lead to 87-85 with just over three minutes remaining. Chicago answered with a pair of free throws from Jimmy Butler and a running hook shot from Pau Gasol that proved to be the dagger.
Dennis Schröder led the way for Atlanta scoring 21 points off the bench in just 17 minutes. Al Horford added 14 while Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll finished with 10 each. Aaron Brooks led Chicago with 23 points while Butler added 21.
With the win, Chicago clinches the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks will open their first round playoff series on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets or the Indiana Pacers