The Bulls team the Hawks faced Tuesday is not a championship contender.
Superstar Derrick Rose (knee) is on the shelf, Luol Deng was sent to Cleveland in a January trade and Carlos Boozer (calf) didn’t suit up.
But regardless of lineup, the Bulls dutifully apply coach Tom Thibodeau’s smothering defensive philosophy. And they still had All-Star center Joakim Noah regulating the middle.
That all was too much for the Hawks, who lost 100-85 for their season-high fourth loss in a row. The Bulls won their sixth in a row against the Hawks at the United Center by dominating 57-28 in rebounding and getting everything from Noah.
The Hawks couldn’t do anything to counter Noah’s size, skill and energy. He recorded his fourth career triple-double with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
Noah sent the Bulls on their way with six points, six rebounds and six assists in the first quarter — topping the Hawks by himself in the latter two categories. The Hawks were down 33-17 when the quarter ended and trailed by as many as 25 in the second before rallying with 33 points in the third.
Atlanta faded in the fourth quarter and now heads to Toronto on Thursday with one last chance to end the losing streak before the All-Star break.
“We’ve just got to get in the groove of things again,” Hawks guard Jeff Teague said. “I think everybody is trying to figure out what we did to make us successful earlier in the season. Right now we are just a little hesitant on the offensive end. We are playing with emotion but we just need a little more aggressiveness.”
The Hawks didn’t show it until after halftime. Atlanta scored 10 points off five Chicago turnovers in the third quarter and used crisp ball movement to make four 3-pointers.
Mike Scott’s 3-pointer cut the Hawks’ deficit to 87-79 with less than nine minutes to play in the game. The Hawks failed to score on their next nine possessions, though, and Chicago pushed the lead back to 93-79.
Atlanta scored just two field goals over the final 8:47.
“The second half is what we expect of our group, what they expect of each other,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The challenge is to find a way to play that way for 48 minutes.”
The Hawks are no slouches on defense, and Chicago can struggle to score. But the Hawks allowed the Bulls too many extra possessions early — they collected eight of their 14 misses in the first quarter — and couldn’t slow Noah and Taj Gibson.
Gibson replaced Boozer in the lineup and had a game-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds while also offering an upgrade on defense. Noah and Gibson matched Atlanta’s team total with 28 combined rebounds.
“They are very active,” Hawks forward Paul Millsap said. “Noah is very versatile; he can handle the basketball. They never stop crashing the boards.”
Millsap led the Hawks with 15 points. Reserve guard Lou Williams added 13 points and four assists.
The Bulls were back home after a trip against Western Conference opponents in which they were 3-3. The Bulls had been vulnerable at home lately with losses to the Timberwolves and Clippers in their past two.
It wasn’t all bad for the Hawks: Kyle Korver extended his NBA record of consecutive games with a 3-pointer made to 119.