The Bulls came into Philips Arena missing a list of star players.
It didn’t much matter.
The Bulls defeated the Hawks 93-76 Saturday night with their one remaining star, Luol Deng, on the floor.
Chicago played without several key players as Derrick Rose (left knee), Kirk Hinrich (right elbow), Carlos Boozer (right hamstring) and Joakim Noah (right foot) were all out. The Bulls also played short-handed in a loss at the Bucks Friday.
“I can’t see how we could have taken that team lightly minus the players that weren’t there,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We’ve been in that situation before where we’ve played other teams and they’ve come in here short-handed. We are professionals. I’m being paid to come out and coach. They are being paid to come out and play. We have a job to do. I don’t care who shows up come time to tip the ball. We have a job to do. We are not in a position to take anybody lightly.”
Deng, who finished with a game-high 25 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter as the Bulls opened a 14-point advantage the Hawks could not erase.
The Bulls (29-18) had three players with double-doubles in points and rebounds. Deng (25 points, 14 rebounds), Taj Gibson (19 points, 19 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds led the effort. Nate Robinson added 20 points.
“If that’s the case, that’s shame on us,” center Al Horford said when asked if the Hawks took the Bulls lightly. “You have to give that team credit. They played last night and they came out and just imposed their will the whole game. They dominated both ends. You have to give them credit.”
The Bulls won the season series from the Hawks, 2-1. Their other victory was a 97-58 win on Jan. 14 when the Hawks set team lows for fewest points in a game (58), half (20) and quarter (5).
The Hawks (26-20) lost a chance to pull within a half-game of the Bulls, Nets and Pacers for third in the Eastern Conference.
Josh Smith and Horford had double-doubles for the Hawks. Smith finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds and Horford added 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks also got double-digit scoring from Jeff Teague (16) and Kyle Korver (10).
Troublesome for the Hawks was the fact Smith had just three second-half points, on two shots.
“We just didn’t play very well,” Korver said. “We didn’t play hard for a while. The Bulls don’t beat themselves. They don’t lose back-to-back very often. They came out and really took it to us.”
The Hawks rallied from a nine-point second-quarter deficit to take a 44-43 lead into halftime. After taking their first lead of the game, 36-35, with 3:08 remaining in the first half the Hawks fell behind by five points before scoring the final six points of the half. Smith had 16 first-half points for the Hawks.
The Bulls regained the nine-point advantage by the end of the third quarter, 69-60, with the help of an 8-0 run to start the second half.
“I think we relied on the jump shot and that put us in a hole,” DeShawn Stevenson said. “We didn’t play defensive as well in the second half. They made shots. We didn’t box out. They had a lot of rebounds.”
Korver hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter to extend his consecutive game streak with a long-range basket to 40. He is two games away from tying the franchise record of 42 held by Mookie Blaylock.
Smith moved past Erick Dampier for 40th on the NBA’s all-time blocks list (1,399).
Teague suffered a right hip contusion in the first quarter when he was fouled by Robinson. The guard briefly came out of the game. Devin Harris (sprained left ankle) did not play despite Drew declaring the guard available before the game. Drew said after the game that Harris was sore after warming up before the game.
“We got totally out played tonight, from start to finish,” Drew said. “ … We’ve been playing behind a lot, getting off to slow starts. As I told our players it didn’t matter who put on the Bulls uniform tonight we had to come out and we had to change our whole way of thinking as far as getting off to a good start. It wasn’t about Chicago tonight. At the very beginning it was about whether we could get back to the way we were as far as playing good, solid basketball. We didn’t do that.”
The Hawks play another key Eastern Conference game Tuesday at the Pacers.