Five observations from the Hawks’ 106-104 loss to the Bulls Saturday.
1. It came down to one shot. It shouldn’t have.
The Hawks led 100-91 with 4:50 remaining. The Bulls finished on a 15-4 run to win. Denzel Valentine started the run with back-to-back 3-pointers. The second came in transition after the Hawks failed on an alley-oop dunk attempt to Dwight Howard. Jimmy Butler scored the final nine points, the final two coming from the free-throw line with 2.1 seconds left. He was fouled by Kent Bazemore on a heave late in the shot clock.
“Tough loss,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think we got up nine late in the game and just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Denzel Valentine hit some big 3’s. Obviously, Jimmy Butler was huge. (Rajon) Rondo had a great game. I’m happy with the way the guys played. They competed. They put is in a position to win. We’ve got to make a few plays, finish a few plays.”
2. Still, it looked as if the Hawks were finally going to be on the winning side of late-shot heroics. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a chance to win the game with a clean look at a 3-pointer in the final seconds. It was just long and fell away.
“I should have pumped 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.”
3. Dennis Schroder had just three turnovers, a departure from his recent play.
But it was costly.
Schroder turned the ball over after the Bulls had tied the game with 32 seconds remaining. The foul on Butler for the game-winning free throws followed.
“I think he fouled me,” Schroder said after losing control of the ball. “It happens. It was still tight. It’s just the game.”
Schroder had 34 turnovers in the previous five games including contests with 10, nine and eight.
“That one hurt,” Budenholzer said. “I’ll have to look at it. I think he went to drive it. I don’t know if someone got their hand on it. The spacing might not have been great. They could have put him in a better position. That was where we can all get better.”
4. Rajon Rondo and Schroder put on quite the point guard duel.
Rondo scored a season-high 25 points and added 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Schroder had 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal.
Rondo made three 3-pointers and since March 1 he is 21 of 41 from long-range.
5. There are standings and scoreboards to watch over the final week and a half of the regular season. The Hawks slipped to sixth in the Eastern Conference with a Bucks win Friday and are now a full game behind the spot. The Hawks lead the Bulls, Heat and Pacers, all with 37-39 records, by two games with six regular-season games remaining.
“They hit some tough shots,” Howard said of the loss. “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 Hawks, who have lost eight of the past 10 games, could get Paul Millsap back on Sunday. That would be welcome relief.