Less than 48 hours after Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer benched Taurean Prince, the second-year forward nearly carried his short-handed team to victory with a career-best performance.
Prince scored a career-high 38 points on Sunday, including 16 in the fourth quarter, as the Hawks fell 129-122 to the Bulls. Prince was the main offensive threat for the Hawks with leading scorer Dennis Schroder (elbow) out of the lineup and No. 2 scorer Kent Bazemore lost to a knee injury in the second quarter.
Prince made 7 of 13 3-point attempts. Eventually the Bulls started running Prince off the 3-point line and he responded by driving to the basket to score, draw fouls (9-for-10 on free throws) or pass to teammates (seven assists).
“The good thing about these last few games is I’ve been getting to the (free-throw) line,” Prince said. “That’s a good way to get a little extra free points. I think if I can just learn to stick to shooting that 3-point shot and letting guys fly buy and opening up my driving lanes, it also turns into seven assists like it did today.”
Prince’s previous career-high in points was 31, which he achieved during a loss at the Celtics on Feb. 2. That game came after Prince learned he’d been selected for the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend.
His latest big scoring game came after Budenholzer didn’t play him in the second half of a loss at Indiana, apparently because the coach didn’t like Prince’s defensive effort.
By Sunday afternoon Prince was doing it all at both ends for the Hawks.
“The way Taurean played was a special night for him,” Budenholzer said. “The way he was shooting the ball, the aggressiveness on the 3-point line. But then (also) the way he was getting in the paint and finding guys, moving the ball. Just to see Taurean grow in a game like this and grow in an opportunity where he’s got the ball in his hands more without Dennis, without Baze — a lot of positives from watching Taurean play.”
Prince’s hot shooting rallied the Hawks after they trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter. He made 4 of 7 3-point tries in the fourth quarter, with the third make pulling the Hawks to within 118-115 with 1:26 to go.
Prince was fouled as he made his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter with 18.8 seconds left, and he added the free throw to cut Chicago’s lead to 125-122. The Bulls made four free throws from there to hold off the rally.
“I really thought we were going to pull it off and come back and pull off the win,” Prince said. “But things happen. I just try to take what I can from this game and take it to the next.”
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