After seeing a 25-point first half lead dwindle to just eight late in the third quarter, the Bulls (26-25) used a strong fourth quarter to earn a 100-85 win Tuesday night over the Hawks (25-25).
Joakim Noah recorded his fourth career triple-double, Taj Gibson added 24 points and 12 rebounds and Jimmy Butler (12 points, 13 rebounds) recorded a double-double in the win.
The Bulls got off to another hot start behind the play of their frontcourt duo in Noah (19 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists) and Gibson. Both were key in the Bulls’ 12-2 run midway through the quarter that extended the lead to 21-12, and Noah finished the stanza with six assists to go along with six points and six rebounds. Gibson, starting his third straight game in pace of the injured Carlos Boozer, scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting to help pace the Bulls to another impressive first quarter.
Mike Dunleavy (15 points, six rebounds) scored nine points, including an offensive rebound putback that acted as part of a 10-2 run to close the quarter. The Bulls shot 58 percent in the quarter, while Paul Millsap (15 points, two rebounds) — who will join Noah on the Eastern Conference All-Star team this weekend — paced the Hawks with seven points of his own.
Kyle Korver (seven points, four assists) got the scoring started in the second quarter with a 3-pointer from the right corner. The make added to his NBA record of consecutive games with a 3-pointer, which now stands at 119 games.
But the Bulls were able to extend their lead early in the second quarter behind the continued hot shooting of D.J. Augustin (13 points, four rebounds, four assists), who drained a 3-pointer to push the lead to 19. A quick 5-0 run from Demarre Carroll (11 points, two assists) forced Tom Thibodeau to use a timeout and bring in Noah, and the Bulls responded with a 5-0 run of their own behind a Noah floater and Kirk Hinrich (10 points, six assists) 3-pointer.
Gibson, Hinrich and Augustin played key parts in closing down the Hawks’ two biggest threats in the first half. Atlanta shot just 40 percent in the half, with Jeff Teague (12 points, three assists) and Millsap combining to go 6-for-14 with just 13 points.
Augustin put the exclamation on a superb first half with two more 3-pointers to push the lead to a first half-high 25 points, with the Bulls eventually heading into intermission with a 58-39 advantage after shooting 53 percent and making six 3-pointers.
A 10-4 Hawks run midway through the third quarter, set up by Teague’s hot shooting and a second 3-pointer from Korver got Atlanta within 16, 70-54.
Noah temporarily gave the Bulls a comfortable lead with a bucket and nifty behind-the-back pass to a cutting Butler for a layup, his ninth of the night.
But the Atlanta reserves, namely Mike Scott (eight points, two 3-pointers) and Lou Williams (13 points, four assists), helped the Hawks to a 16-6 run to cut the deficit in half, 80-70, heading into the fourth quarter. A Gibson baseline jumper ended the quarter and stopped the bleeding momentarily.
Needing a lift and a strong start to the fourth quarter, Noah went to work with a layup to push the Bulls’ lead out to 12, and picked up a “secondary assist” out of the post, as Butler then fed rookie Tony Snell for a 3-pointer that gave the Bulls a 15-point lead to begin the stanza.
The next trip down Noah picked up his 10th assist of the evening on a baseline jumper from Gibson. The Hawks pulled within eight, 87-79, after a Scott 3-pointer, but the Bulls responded with a 6-0 run behind baskets from Gibson and a jumper from Dunleavy.
The two teams went cold from there, which was fine for the Bulls holding a double-digit lead.
With less than four minutes remaining Teague wrapped up Gibson under the basket and took him to the ground, with Gibson responding by apparently kicking the Hawks’ point guard. Teague earned a flagrant 1 foul for the throwdown, while Gibson was given a technical foul for his part.
Noah capped off the exceptional night with a kickout pass to Hinrich, who drained the Bulls’ eighth 3-pointer of the evening and gave Noah his 11th assist.