The Bulls got off to a slow start in the first quarter and it hurt them. Atlanta led 24-16, and that was essentially the margin of defeat, 8 points. “They got us in the first quarter and we were chasing them the whole game,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Kyle Korver, a former Bull, torched his old team, hitting 7 treys, and finished with 24 points. He moved off screens, was covered, and then found an opening, and boom, hit a trey. Al Horford, the center, was a force down low and added 22 points and 9 rebounds. Jeff Teague, the Hawks’ smart and shifty guard, scored 17 and had 11 assists. Paul Millsap had 16 points for the Hawks. Atlanta doesn’t have a D-Wade or Tim Duncan. What they do have is a team that is playing on all cylinders and taking on all comers.
Atlanta showed Chicago what a very good team looks like and the Bulls are not there, yet. Chicago’s home record is a disappointing 12-10. The Bulls had a hot spell, but have cooled off and now, an excellent team comes in and it’s touch and go. Chicago played Atlanta even for the rest of the game, but that wasn’t enough. “Right now, our margin of error is so small,” Thibodeau noted.
Players worked hard. Taj Gibson logged almost 42 minutes. In part due to the absence of Joakim Noah, who is out with a sore ankle. It doesn’t look like Noah is coming back immediately. So, the Bulls, who face Cleveland next, will have their hands full.
Derrick Rose started 0-4 from the floor and shot only 8-22, hitting for 23 points. He nearly had a triple double in dishing out 10 dimes, and grabbing 8 boards. Pau Gasol, another workhorse, had 22 points and 15 boards. Jimmy Butler played 38 minutes and scored 15. Aaron Brooks, who plays a bit like Teague, scored 13 points for the Bulls.
Atlanta had fewer turnovers than the home-team Bulls, who had 13 errors.
In his post-game press conference, Thibobeau, ever the stalwart coach, said, “Cleveland’s next.” Noting that the team just had to play with more effort and smarter defense. The Bulls need to tighten their defense. That is asking a lot with Noah, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year out of action.