The Atlanta Hawks needed a win against a Chicago Bulls team, as the Bulls entered Tuesday night tied with the Hawks at 25 wins on the year. The winner would likely move into the top 4 spots in the East, and the loser would likely fall to 6th place. It set up as a huge swing game midway in the regular season for a banged up Hawks team. It also couldn’t have gone worse for the Hawks right from the start.
Not only did the Hawks fail to score more than 20 points in the first quarter, they also gave up a staggering 33 points to the Bulls before the quarter drew to a close. Against a high-scoring team, that would still be bad, but the Bulls are one of the worst shooting teams (from a field goal percentage standpoint) in the league. At the half, the Hawks found themselves down 19 and looking for answers from anyone.
Unfortunately, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson dominated the game from start to finish. Noah had his fourth career triple-double on the night, and Taj Gibson has 20+ points with double digit rebounds of his own. The problem for the Hawks was shooting. Everyone was very inconsistent early in the game, but they rallied hard in the second half, only to go cold in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. You can give the Hawks a lot of credit for making it a game down the stretch, but the NBA doesn’t award moral victories for not getting blown out.
The Hawks ended up shooting 44% from the field which wasn’t nearly enough. Paul Millsap was the leading scorer with 15 , but the Hawks needed about 10 more from him to even get close in the game. Lou Williams was the top scorer off the bench with 13 points, and Jeff Teague had a respectable night with 12 points of his own.
That being said, none of it mattered when the defense let Chicago score 100+, something the Bulls had previously only done once in the month of February. In addition, the Bulls thumped the Hawks on the glass by a 57-28 margin, and that makes life difficult for anyone in the NBA. The only silver lining I can take from this game is that Kyle Korver extended his streak (now at 119 games) with another 3-pointer.
Other than that, the Hawks are about to find themselves in a free-fall in the standings. They have a chance to right the ship against a surging Toronto team tomorrow. Outside of the top two spots, things are getting tight in the Eastern Conference.