The Bulls held the Hawks to a franchise regular season record low 58 points in a dominant victory.
In my preview, I mentioned how the Hawks' offense had been struggling as of late. But man alive I didn't think it would be as bad as it was on Monday night at the UC. The Hawks set a record for futility with just 20 points in the first half, and the Bulls cruised to an easy 97-58 victory. The 58 points allowed was the fewest the Bulls have given up in a regular season game in franchise history.
The game started innocently enough, with the teams trading baskets in the early going. The Bulls did an excellent job taking advantage of their size advantages down low, with Carlos Boozer bullying Josh Smith in the post and Luol Deng taking it straight at Kyle Korver. Deng failed to exploit his significant advantage on Korver in the first meeting this season, but the Bulls made a concerted effort to get the ball to Lu in the post at the outset of this one. Korver did a somewhat respectable job keeping Deng in front of him, but Lu used his length to shoot right over the top.
It was about halfway through the first quarter that the Hawks simply forgot how to play basketball. After scoring just three points in the final 6:37 of the first quarter, the Hawks did not score a point in the second quarter until there was 5:15 remaining in the half. The Bulls' offense wasn't much better during that stretch, but it didn't matter because the Hawks were just so terrible.
The Bulls certainly deserve plenty of credit for the Hawks' offensive woes, defending pretty much everything at the rim and blocking seven shots in the first half. Taj Gibson himself had four blocks in the half. But the Hawks also brought a lot of their issues upon themselves, forcing jumpers, committing unforced turnovers and seemingly not running any semblance of an offense. Smith displayed his miniscule basketball IQ on numerous occasions, as the Bulls baited him into terrible jumper after terrible jumper. There was one possession where Smith pounded the ball into the floor for seemingly half the shot clock before hoisting an ill-advised brick.
The Hawks wound up scoring a franchise-low 20 points in the first half (including five in the second quarter), which was also a Bulls franchise record for fewest points allowed in a half. The Hawks shot just 20.5 percent in the process, made 1-of-6 from long range (a Korver bomb in the early going) and turned the ball over 11 times. And like I said, many of those were unforced. One was a laughable backcourt violation off an inbounds pass coming out of a timeout.
There was surprisingly some excitement in the second half, starting with a blatant cheap shot by Devin Harris on Kirk Hinrich that resulted in a flagrant-1 on Harris and a somewhat bizarre offensive foul call on Richard Hamilton. Hamilton was ruled to have pushed Harris into Hinrich, but Harris also clearly shoved Kirk while he was in the air, which was a completely dangerous and unnecessary play. Hinrich was pissed about it and rightfully so, and if Joakim Noah didn't grab hold of him, we might have seen some fireworks. It was rather reminiscent of the infamous scuffle with Rajon Rondo that resulted in Vinny Del Negro and Aaron Gray holding Hinrich back.
There also was some intrigue about whether the Hawks would set the NBA record for futility, which is sadly held by our Bulls when they scored just 49 points in a game against the Heat in 1999. The Hawks did manage to get into the 50s, and brought that shooting percentage all the way up to a sterling 29.3 percent.
Garbage time also brought some fun moments, with a Gibson monster slam, an absurd near alley-oop to Jimmy Butler, Teague-on-Teague action and Nazr Mohammed missed dunks. Vladimir Radmanovic and Daequan Cook got some extended run too! Great times had by all! (except no Big Macs) Here's the Taj dunk (via SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell):
Also of note is the fact that Boozer finished with another strong game, scoring 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and pulling down 13 rebounds. What was really nice to see was his eight free throw attempts, and the Bulls did an excellent job going to the basket all game, shooting a total of 33 free throws in the game. Deng chipped in 18 points on a very efficient 7-of-9 shooting. Noah grabbed 16 rebounds, but in a rather strange stat, went 2-of-11 from the field. The Bulls also won the rebounding battle 59-39.
It was certainly nice to see the Bulls come out and destroy the Hawks at the UC after the egg against the Suns on Saturday. The Bulls would have had to have tried REALLY hard to lose this game, but I have to give credit for keeping the intensity up for most of the game. Now hopefully there's no let down against the Raptors on Wednesday.