Five observations from the Hawks’ 102-93 victory over the Bulls Friday.
1. Tim Hardaway Jr. added insult to injury. His steal and buzzer-beating 3-pointer ended the first quarter and gave the Hawks a 35-13 lead. Shimmy time.
The Hawks shot 79 percent (15 of 19, 2 of 3 from 3-point range) in the first quarter. The 13 points allowed were the second fewest for any quarter this season.
“I like the ball in my hand in that situation,” Hardaway said. “I kind of like to shoot far, half-court shots, when the clock is running down. I have confidence in myself that every shot I shoot is going in. Thankfully it went in.”
Dennis Schroder had 10 points including eight of the Hawks’ first 13 points. The Bulls subbed Michael Carter-Williams for Rajon Rondo in the period for the difficulty he had guarding Schroder.
2. Wait a minute. The Hawks led 87-57 headed into the fourth quarter. Time to rest the starters with another game Saturday night. However, the Bulls rallied and got as close as five points, 95-90, with 1:09 remaining.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was forced to put Paul Millsap and Schroder back in the game to hold off the Bulls. He was trying to limit the minutes of his key players with another game Saturday.
“Just win the game,” Millsap said of going back in for the final 1:30. “Simple as that. Hated to go back in. I untied my shoes. I had to tie my shoes back up. I was ready to let my bunnies breath. Things like that happen.”
The Hawks got a big basket from Schroder, a steal and three free throws from Malcolm Delaney, a rebound from Millsap and a dunk from DeAndre Bembry to close it out.
“We did for the first three quarters,” Hardaway said. “Then we just got lackadaisical, relaxed and not knocking down our shots. We weren’t playing Hawks basketball. They ended up coming back. You have to give the credit. They came back in the fourth. Their young guys played with a sense of urgency.”
3. The Bulls kept shooting from 3-point range. And kept missing. They were a dreadful 3 of 17 in the first half, including missing their first 10 from long range. The Hawks were 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening half.
For the game, the Bulls finished 7 of 28 from 3-point range with three coming in their fourth-quarter comeback.
4. The Hawks top priority was to stop Jimmy Butler. The Bulls forward was just named an Eastern Conference All-Star Game starter. He entered averaging 24.8 points per game and had a 52-point game earlier this season.
The Hawks held Butler to 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 2 of 2 from 3-point range and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line.
“Jimmy Butler is playing really well right now,” said Kent Bazemore, who along with Thabo Sefolosha drew most of the defensive assignment. “A lot of the emphasis was on containing him. We did a good job of that. The activity. The deflections. The steals.”
5. Some admitted it. Some did not. The Hawks had a considerable amount of frustration after they trailed by as many as 30 points in a 118-95 loss to the Pistons Wednesday. It was the Bulls that were on the receiving end of the payback.
“What happened in Detroit? Games like that get forgotten,” Millsap said.
The Hawks led by as many as 22 points in the first quarter, 30 points in the second quarter and 34 points in the fourth quarter. They jumped on the Bulls with a 79 percent shooting percentage in the first quarter, a near-mirror image of what happened to them against the Pistons.
“That’s the way you want to bounce back,” Bazemore said. “You show that you got the message. Life throws you lemons like that some times. It’s how you respond and show how good of a team we are. We came out the way we should.”
Budenholzer said he didn’t sense any frustration with his team – but it was hard to argue with the immediate results.
“You have a team of character, a team of pride, when you get beat soundly, and Detroit deserves a ton of credit, our group just wanted to respond,” Budenholzer said. “When you have character, that’s what you want to do.”