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Hawks unable to generate defensive resistance in 129-122 loss to Bulls

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Well, the offense was productive.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday afternoon’s game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls did not bring a ton of national fanfare, as both teams are headed for the lottery and simply playing out the string. For much of the day, though, entertaining offensive basketball (helped by porous defense) emerged but, in the end, the Hawks fell to the Bulls by a final score of 129-122.

The early portion of the matinee contest went quite well for the Hawks and it began from the opening tip. Atlanta converted its first three attempts from three-point range and, in conjunction with horrific defense from the visitors, the Hawks rattled off 13 consecutive points to assume control.

Among the highlights from the early moments was a beautiful lob dunk to John Collins.

From there, Mike Muscala converted two threes in the final 30 seconds of the opening period and, in a flash, the Hawks claimed a 34-20 lead after 12 minutes. In fact, the second triple came at the buzzer and he was beautifully assisted by Tyler Dorsey.

All told, the home team knocked down six (!) threes in the opening period and Taurean Prince led the way with 10 points on only five shooting possessions. However, the beginning of the second quarter was less kind to Atlanta.

Jaylen Morris hobbled to the locker room with a left ankle injury early in the period and, in terms of the scoreboard, the Bulls zoomed to a 21-5 spurt to the take the lead at 41-39 with 6:35 remaining in the half. Then, even more unfortunate news took place, as Kent Bazemore suffered a right knee sprain, went straight to the locker room and was ruled out for the remainder of the day.

All told, the Hawks were able to hang around to the tune of a 53-50 deficit but, for the second half, Atlanta approached things with only nine available players. The Bulls took advantage of a Bazemore-less Hawks starting lineup to open the third quarter, using a 16-8 run to grab a double-figure lead.

From there, though, the Hawks battled back with high-end offense. Through three quarters, Atlanta shot 50 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three, with a 117.8 offensive rating, and that was enough to keep the team engaged to the tune of only a six-point deficit as the fourth quarter approached.

Then, the Bulls exploded to the tune of an 8-0 run to claim a 102-90 lead and, from there, the Hawks were unable to fully close the gap. There were murmurs of hope (including a three-point deficit with less than 30 seconds remaining) but, throughout the day, Atlanta failed to generate consistent resistance defensively and the final result was the seven-point margin of defeat.

Taurean Prince, just days after a second half benching in Indiana, led the way for the Hawks with a career-best 38 points on 11 of 18 shooting and he was highly efficient with help from 7 of 13 from three-point range and 8 of 9 at the free throw line. In support, John Collins (15 points, seven rebounds) and Mike Muscala (career high 19 points, including five threes) provided productive efforts but Chicago’s offense was the story of the day (even on a day in which the Hawks generated 32 assists and tremendous overall offensive numbers) and not even strong individual showings on Atlanta’s side could change that.

After a day off on Monday, the Hawks will return to action at Philips Arena on Tuesday evening when Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder come to town for their annual visit. Stay tuned.