The Hawks took the lead for good and put an exclamation point on the win when Kent Bazemore found Howard for an alley-oop dunk with 34 seconds left. The Hawks would ice the victory from the free-throw line before the Bulls got a meaningless basket with 3.9 seconds left.
“A lot of the night it just didn’t feel like we were here,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We weren’t mentally sharp in the first half. A lot of mental mistakes. Including into the second half. The guys just kept fighting. We talk about playing 48 minutes a lot. That last three minutes was unique. To go on a run like that, it takes you being great on both ends.”
The Hawks (27-19) have won seven straight games over the Bulls with the improbable victory. They have won 12 of the past 15 games and moved to within a game of second place in the Eastern Conference.
Schroder led six Hawks in double-figure scoring with 24 points. He was followed by Millsap (21), Thabo Sefolosha (18), Hardaway (17), Bazemore (16) and Howard (16). Howard had a double-double with 12 rebounds.
The Bulls (23-24) were led by Jimmy Butler with a game-high 40 points. Dwyane Wade added 33 points.
“To me, you don’t think about it,” Millsap said of the considerable deficit with three minutes to play. “You just play. What got us back in it was not focusing on the score. But focusing on getting stops and playing the right way on offense. Down the stretch, don’t think about it.”
The Bulls led the entire first half after jumping out to a 7-0 lead. The led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter before the Hawks used a 9-0 run to pull within a point. The Bulls led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter and took a 59-51 advantage into halftime.
Wade scored 20 first-half points on 9 of 12 shooting. Butler had 17 points and the rest of the Bulls starters had six points. Hardaway led the Hawks with 12 first-half points and Sefolosha added 10, all in the first quarter.
The Bulls pushed their lead to 12 points in the third quarter. The Hawks then went on a 14-2 run to tie the game, 72-72, with 3:47 left in the period. It was the closest the Hawks had been since the 0-0 start of the game. The Bulls took an 83-78 lead into the final quarter after Butler hit a step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bulls would lead by as many as 11 points in the final quarter before the Hawks dramatic comeback.
“It means a lot,” Hardaway said. “It gets us closer to being top three in the East. We’ve got to keep pushing.”