After three straight losses and with a very difficult road trip looming next week, the Atlanta Hawks needed to take care of business on Friday night. They did just that, securing a comfortable victory over the shorthanded Chicago Bulls by a final margin of 103-88.
The Hawks emerged from the locker room with good energy and activity, and that showed up on the scoreboard in the early going. Atlanta used a 9-0 spurt to build a 20-11 late in the first quarter, and even with some rough shooting overall, the home team held a 5-point advantage after 12 minutes of play.
In the second quarter, the Hawks continued to (slowly) build the lead, peaking with a 15-point advantage midway through the period. However, Atlanta could not fully pull away because of ice-cold perimeter shooting, and Chicago finally mounted a charge near the end of the half. The Bulls put together a run of seven straight points, and even with a Tim Hardaway Jr. three to stop the bleeding, the Hawks managed just a seven-point cushion at the break.
On one hand, it was a positive half in that Atlanta managed to overcome its wretched shooting. The team connected on only 2 of its 20 (not a misprint) shots from beyond the arc, but the Hawks still produced 16 assists against just four turnovers, and the offense generally clicked. Still, it would certainly have allowed Mike Budenholzer to breathe easier if a few shots fell from deep, and the margin was too close for comfort as the third quarter began.
Not be denied, though, the Hawks put things away in the second half, even if it wasn't in dominant fashion.
Atlanta stretched its advantage to 63-50 with six straight points, and later in the third quarter, another 7-point mini-spurt capped by a three from Jeff Teague gave the Hawks an 18-point lead. The Bulls would, as most NBA teams do, make another push with an 11-1 run in their own right, and with that, the visitors climbed within eight points. Still, the Hawks responded with six straight before the end of the quarter, and it never felt particularly threatening.
To their credit, the undermanned Bulls kept hanging around, cutting the lead to nine points on multiple occasions in the final quarter. Kent Bazemore (finally) connected on a three to give the Hawks a 14-point edge with 6:22 to go and, from that point forward, the margin would never slip below the 10-point mark. The "final" blow was a personal 5-point outburst from Al Horford, coming in the form of a dunk and a three-pointer, and at 95-80 with 3:20 remaining, the Hawks simply cruised to the finish line with the added benefit of a Kirk Hinrich appearance in the final seconds.
Individually, this wasn't a particularly dominant game for anyone on the Hawks roster. Jeff Teague (19 points, 9 assists) had a productive night that included early energy that was more than welcomed, while Al Horford finished the night with 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting. It wasn't the best evening from Paul Millsap (despite a double-double), but Atlanta was able to win comfortably on a night when the team made only 7 of its 34 attempts from three-point range, and in totality, it was a well-rounded effort outside of that shortcoming.
The Hawks will return to action with another crucial contest on Sunday, as the team hosts the Charlotte Hornets in a matinee extravaganza. Stay tuned.