Hawks hang on to snap six-game losing streak vs. Bulls

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Hawks had no idea when they signed Elton Brand to a 16th year in the NBA that he’d be so important, let alone that just as their schedule turned toward its dark side that he’d step up and help slow down a player they let go 13 years ago.

Al Horford led the Hawks with 21 points and 10 rebounds, not to mention six assists, but Atlanta (17-7) might not have beaten the Bulls 93-86 without Brand putting his stamp on this game.

As reserve center Pero Antic missed his third straight game with flu-like symptoms, Brand stepped in and left a mark.

The Hawks are not the shooting squad with Brand in the lineup rather than Antic, but they’re more physical and against Chicago (15-9) – which was 11-3 on the road before Monday – that’s a big deal.

Plus, Brand’s back-to-back jumpers late in the third quarter pushed Atlanta’s lead to 69-61 with 2:51 left in the period.

“To have Elton there … he’s an incredible professional. He takes care of himself. He’s one of the best workers. He sets a great example for our entire group,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “It’s not a surprise to me, and the hard part is making decisions like that when you have lots of guys who can help.”

In Brand’s 13:30, he helped Horford make life difficult for Bulls big man Pau Gasol, whom the Hawks drafted No. 3 overall in 2001 only to trade him to the Vancouver-soon-to-be-Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Gasol has been playing out of his mind for the Bulls (15-9) , averaging 19 points, 11.9 rebounds (second in the NBA), and tying for the league lead with 14 double-doubles.

He never really got going Monday on the way to 13 points, though, and the Hawks did a nice job choking off the paint, where Chicago center Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose did not penetrate as often as in the past, either. He scored 14 points, but shot just 6-for-21.

The Hawks were outrebounded 57-40, yet the Bulls were held to fewer than 100 points for just the second time in 10 games (average of 107.3 before Monday) on 35-for-93 shooting (37.6 percent).

Kyle Korver scored 12 points with four rebounds and four assists, but nothing he did was more important than when he blocked a 3-point try by Kirk Hinrich with 2:11 left. That shot, if made, would have pulled the Bulls to within 85-84.

On a fast break in the waning seconds, Korver tried to pass only to have Chicago’s Jimmy Butler (22 points) intercept the ball out of his hands.Korver quickly tied up Butler, though, and while he didn’t win the ensuing jump ball, he kept it alive long enough for Millsap to grab it.

Millsap (17 points, eight rebounds) passed to Jeff Teague, who was fouled, and the Atlanta point guard made two free throws with 14.3 seconds left to give the Hawks a 91-86 lead with 10.8 seconds left.

“My goodness, that was stupid,” Korver said of his errant pass. “Jimmy Butler jumps 15 feet in the air and gets it … When you play the Bulls, it’s going to be a slugfest. They’re such a physical team … but we got the win.”