And so they did! After a game where they set their season-high in first quarter points, the Bulls were one point shy at 33 in this game over the Atlanta Hawks. Things continued at a glorious pace up until near the end of the 2nd quarter as they had a 27-point advantage at one time (on a beautiful elevator doors play to free up a DJ Augustin three), ultimately finishing with a 100-85 victory.
Joakim Noah has been proving his All-Star status a lot lately as his team is now a game over .500 with a skeleton crew of a rotation, and he paced this one by getting nearly a triple-double at halftime. Noah did wind up getting that 10th assist in the 4th quarter, finishing with 11 to go with 19 points and 16 rebounds. With Carlos Boozer missing his 3rd straight game, Noah played over 41 minutes while his frontcourt mate Taj Gibson eclipsed 46. Taj opened the game with his best Boozer impression, nailing several mid-range jumpers (but, like, with Taj Gibson incredible defense and other Boozer non-qualities) and finished with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.
The rebound numbers overall were staggering, with the Bulls owning an offensive rebound rate of over 42% while holding Atlanta to under 12%. Jimmy Butler chipped in mightily in that department with 13 rebounds from the wing.
Much of the first half and parts of the 3rd quarter was some of the most free-flowing and enjoyable Bulls basketball we've seen this year. Jumpshots were going in from all over the court (including Augustin hitting 4-6 from three, all in the first half), and the ability to get so many rebounds and loose balls only contributed to an effectively-aggressive style that had the Hawks constantly a step behind. The Bulls were fantastic in forcing defensive movement and making the extra pass, with adequate spacing to consistently generate great looks.
The Hawks deficit was reduced to a mere 19 at halftime, and there was a point in the second half where the game got as close as 8. Atlanta made some runs using small-ball (and reserves like Lou Williams, Mike Scott, and Elton Brand) and forced the pass-happy (and probably fatigued a bit) Bulls into some turnovers. But they are a very flawed, average roster themselves, and it's tough to imagine them being able to forge a full comeback against a frontcourt of Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. And they didn't, ultimately being stifled into a 15-point 4th quarter.
As for the unmentioned other Bulls, they all played well too. The whole lot. Oh, I guess as a team they were 6-13 from the line, that could be improved. With the win, the Bulls moved ahead of the Hawks for the 4th seed in the conference, with a chance to get a tie for #3 before the All-Star break.