So, the Hawks are pretty good. And worse, a bad matchup for the Bulls, especially a unit without Joakim Noah. Atlanta plays small and stretches the floor with their big-man tandem of Al Horford and Paul Millsap, and time and time again the Bulls bigs slow to rotate and gave them way too much space. Horford was missing quite a few wide open midrange jumpers, but ultimately was the Hawks leading scorer with 21 points as the Hawks won this game 93-86.
This was just not the kind of game for Pau Gasol to thrive. He did have another double-double, but had 15 shots to get his 13 points, and I think at least half of those buckets came on his own tip-ins. The Bulls have a habit of trying to force post-up opportunities to Gasol, especially early in the game, and all it seemingly led to was a fast-break opportunity the other way where he'd then get beat pretty badly in transition. Taj Gibson started the game well defensively, but while clearly more capable than Gasol also had some issues of his own, namely closing out way too hard (and late) on shooters as they pulled a pump-fake around him. And speaking of pump-fakes, while you'd think Mirotic would at least be more mobile defensively than Pau, he was fouling at an unsustainable rate.
Made worse was Mirotic also missing several wide-open three point attempts, as maybe the back-to-back betrayed the Bulls jumpshooting tonight. Derrick Rose's jumper was flat as hell all night as he shot 6-21, and though he at least didn't fall into a trap of avoiding the paint, his attacking was usually a net negative as he had 6 turnovers (including a couple key ones late). Rose also did not offer a good initial resistance when guarding Jeff Teague, who left some points on the court as a result of poor finishing but was steady throughout the game in opening up pick/pop (and other) opportunities for his team. The Hawks like to drive and kick you until you can no longer react, and it led to a 6/14 mark from three in the first half (Korver going 3 of 5...even with Butler on him, sometimes he just gets that inch of space required) as they led by 6.
In the second half, the Hawks attempts from three were halved to 7 and they only hit 1 of them (by Korver). But while the Bulls did stay close throughout, and to within a point at one time, they never took the lead. The Hawks midrange shooting was just good enough, and the Bulls seemingly gave up an easy baskets on defense every time they got close. The Hawks had trouble closing it out, thanks to a couple of outstanding Jimmy Butler hustle plays (Butler was one of the few Bulls who shot well, and his 8-17 woulda looked better without needing to launch a couple bailout attempts) and missed FTs, but the Bulls could not capitalize.
It would've been nice if at some point when the Bulls were making a run Kirk Hinrich would hit the shots he was left wide open to take. Kirk went scoreless for the second straight game, this time going 0-7 in 21 minutes. But he was also a positive plus/minus in that time, just another example of Kirk transcending traditional stats in a way I just can't measure, I guess. Aaron Brooks had spats of competence but also took two horrific attempts in the 4th quarter (with Rose alongside him) and was yanked for Hinrich down the stretch. Hinrich's final shot attempt was blocked at the three point line by Korver. The Bulls shot 37.6% as a team.
The one thing the Bulls did right in this game was totally demolish Atlanta on the glass, getting 30% of the available offensive boards while giving up under 11%. The more traditional Bulls bigs certainly capitalized on that (and Gibson finished inside well going 7/11 for 15 points), but they were exposed for a lack of quickness too often in this game. Taj also appeared to tweak something in both halves, too, but stayed in for crunch time as he played over 38 minutes and Gasol nearly 40.