This time it was the Hawks who could not hold a 10-point lead in Chicago.
Jimmy Butler made a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Bulls a 106-104 victory over the Hawks on Saturday at United Center.
The Hawks overcame a double-digit deficit late in a win over the Bulls in January.
Dennis Schroder scored in transition off a Butler miss with 35.8 seconds remaining to give the Hawks a 104-102 lead. Butler answered with a drive three seconds later. One Hawks’ miscue later, Butler was fouled on a shot late in the clock by Kent Bazemore after a Schroder turnover and made the two free throws. Tim Hardaway Jr. took a 3-point shot for the win that just missed at the final buzzer.
“I should have pump-faked,” Hardaway said. “Two seconds left, that’s an easy pump-fake, one dribble shot. I think I had time. But it felt great coming off my hand. It was on line. It was just a little long.”
The Hawks used a 38-18 run between the third and fourth quarters to turn a 10-point deficit into a 10-point advantage. They led 89-79 early in the final quarter. The Bulls came all the way back to tie the score at 102-102 after an 11-2 run keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers from Denzel Valentine.
The Hawks (39-37) had a two-game win streak snapped. They fell a game behind the Bucks for fifth in the Eastern Conference with six games remaining in the regular season. The Hawks are two games ahead of the Bulls, Heat and Pacers, all with identical records, for the final two playoff spots.
Schroder led the Hawks with 29 points. Hardaway (20), Dwight Howard (13) and Ersan Ilyasova (13) also scored in double-digits. Howard added 12 rebounds.
“They hit some tough shots,” Howard said. “That’s how they got the win. We should have won that game though. Any game we lose it’s hard to take. Tonight, that was a game we definitely should have won. We went up big and we should have capitalized on it.”
The Bulls (37-39) have won three consecutive as they make a push for the playoffs. Butler led the team with a game-high 31 points, including their last nine points. Rajon Rondo finished with a season-high 25 points.
The Bulls led by as many has eight points in the first half and took a 52-46 lead into intermission.
The Bulls extend their lead to 10 points with the first two field goals of the third quarter. They led by the margin, 61-51, with nine minutes remaining in the period before Hardaway scored 11 consecutive Hawks points to start a 19-4 run to take back the lead at 70-69.
The Hawks weren’t done. They took an 84-79 lead into the fourth quarter, their biggest advantage of the game to that point, when Bazemore beat the buzzer with a 37-foot 3-point heave. The Hawks continued their run into the final period to build the double-digit lead.
“I’m happy with the way the guys played,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They competed. They put is in a position to win. We’ve got to make a few plays, finish a few plays.”
The Hawks again played without two starters Paul Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha. Millsap could return for Sunday’s game at the Nets.