By Rory Sharrock
ATLANTA — D.J. Augustin was listed as a reserve, but lit up the scoreboard with starter’s numbers, posting a game-high 23 points off the bench to lift the Bulls to a 105-92 win over the Hawks.
Augustin’s stellar night included an eight-for-15 shooting display while connecting on four-of-eight from behind the arc. He also flooded the box score with five assists and two steals.
“I went out there and played hard. I’m feeling comfortable and confident going into the end of the season and the playoffs,” said Augustin. “When I get in the game, I try to let the game come to me, but at the same time, I try to attack too. My teammates do a great job of trying to find me and help me out.”
Atlanta went toe-to-toe with the Bulls early on, draining an array of long-distance shots to maintain a 31-31 score at the end of the first quarter. However, the second quarter was a different story as the Bulls closed the gap on Atlanta’s open space around the perimeter. Once that option wasn’t available, the missed shots turned into long rebounds and easy fast-break baskets on the other end of the floor for Chicago. The Bulls closed out the first half on a 12-3 run to go up 57-49 at the break and never looked back en route to securing the victory.
“I thought our bench played well. I didn’t like the way we started the game defensively. Offensively, I like it a lot,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “I thought the ball movement was very good. I thought the bench in the second quarter got it going for us. D.J. [Augustin] had his usual game. I thought Taj [Gibson] set a lot of great screens for him and Joakim [Noah] set great screens as well. He has saved our season. He’s a great shooter and has hit some big shots.”
Six Bulls scored in double figures, and it was the backcourt that carried the heavy load on offense. Along with Augustin’s 23-point outing, Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler added 17 points respectively. Carlos Boozer followed up with 12 and Joakim Noah recorded another double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The win gives the Bulls a season sweep over the Hawks and keeps the squad at pace with Toronto. Both the Bulls and Raptors share identical 43-32 records, but Toronto maintains the No. 3 seed in the conference standings.
“We’re trying to play good basketball,” said Noah. “There’s no way we’d try to lose games to matchup against anybody. Whatever happens, happens. We’re just going to trying to win as much as we can.”
Chicago’s triumph also marks the 200th career coaching victory for Thibodeau.