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Hawks use big first half to dispatch Bulls

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Dennis Schröder scored 25 points as the Atlanta Hawks knocked off the Chicago Bulls 102-93.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks bounced back from a disappointing effort on Wednesday with a 102-93 win over the Chicago Bulls Friday night at Philips Arena. Atlanta was downright dominant for three quarters pushing the lead to as many as 34 points. The Bulls to their credit mounted a furious comeback attempt in the fourth against the Hawks’ reserves but Atlanta was able to hold off the rally and pull out the win.

“It was a good bounce-back effort from the other night,” Mike Budenholzer said after the game. A lot of guys played well. A lot of guys were really good defensively. It was a good win.”

Atlanta jumped out of the gates quickly leading 35-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Hawks connected on 15 of their first 19 field goal attempts (79%) and held the Bulls to just 35 percent shooting in the process.

“You have to hit open ones, even hit some tough ones....Timmy hits the one at the end of the quarter,” Budenholzer said when asked about the big first quarter output. “I thought we were getting to the basket. We were moving without the ball. I thought the offense was good. Everything was pointing in the right direction. It was obviously a great quarter for us.”

Atlanta scored 30 more in the second and led 65-36 heading to halftime. They pushed the lead to 34 in the third before settling for an 87-57 advantage heading to the fourth but that is when things got a little sideways.

The Bulls opened the quarter with a 20-4 run to cut the Atlanta lead down to 16 forcing Budenholzer to put some of his regulars back into the game to preserve the victory.

“With the back-to-back, it would be great to keep your guys’ minutes as low as possible to leave some in the tank for tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “But it was a strange fourth quarter, and we had to put Paul, Dennis and Malcolm back in.”

Chicago outscored Atlanta 36-15 in the fourth and got as close as five points with just over a minute remaining.

“It’s hard to stay focused, but you still have to go out there and compete,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said of the fourth quarter. “We can’t rest. That’s what happens when you rest. Everybody is in the NBA for a reason. They can make open shots too. They made open shots. They went to the basket when they had a chance, got a bunch of and-ones and a lot of three’s. They got so many turnovers in a row that they were able to run on the fast break and get easy lay-ins.”

Ultimately, the Hawks were able to hold on and avoid what would have been an embarrassing loss. Schröder led four different Hawks players in double-figures with 25 points. Millsap finished with 14 while Dwight Howard added 11 despite 3 of 11 shooting.

Atlanta shot 47 percent from the field for the game and recorded 23 assists on 39 made baskets.

“We had good ball movement. We took away their drives,” Millsap said of the performance. “We took away the paint and didn’t let them draw fouls. We stayed disciplined for the most part and kept them out of the lane.”

“A win is a win,” Schröder added. “We played great the first three quarters. The fourth quarter....it happens. We were relaxing a little bit. I’m glad we won. We want to win tomorrow as well.”