It was a night filled with turnovers and defensive struggles at times, but the Atlanta Hawks were able to overcome it with some timely offense. As has become the norm with the team-oriented style in Atlanta, seven players finished with double figures in scoring. On the other end of the spectrum, the Bulls were led in scoring by their stars Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, who contributed 39 and 25 respectively.
Bench is Better
Four of the Hawks who scored double digits came off the bench, led by a stellar performance from the ageless Thabo Sefolosha. The Swiss forward had a torrid stretch in the first half in which he shot 7-7 from the field, scoring 16 points in just six minutes. He finished with 20 and anchored the defense of the second unit, while Tim Hardaway Jr., and Malcolm Delaney brought some additional offensive fireworks. Mike Muscala, who entered the night with the highest field goal percentage in the league, put together another solid game as well.
Dwight Howard did his usual work on the boards with ten and added 18 points. He also shot a surprisingly well 6-9 from the charity stripe, an area he has been working tirelessly on in the past few months. Kent Bazemore was one of the lone Hawks who had an off night, but he still was able to chip in seven assists. Dennis Schroder shot the ball poorly and will look to bounce back closer to the career-best game he had against the Cleveland Cavaliers the night before.
The Threes Keep Coming
Most experts tagged perimeter shooting as the one major weakness of this Chicago Bulls team, but it sure didn’t look like it at times in this game. All-Star guard Jimmy Butler shot 4-9 from downtown, and his percentage on the season remains significantly higher than his career average. The veteran Wade also continued to prove that the three-point shot is a legitimate weapon in his arsenal, putting in two of his own.
However, outside of those two players, the Bulls struggled to find enough production to scrape out a victory. Rajon Rondo once again showcased his passing ability but simply could not get it going on the offensive end. Young backups Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott did little to help the cause, and they will be relied upon more heavily if this team wants to challenge in the East.
The Bulls have a quick turnaround, traveling to face the Miami Heat on national T.V. tomorrow night. This will be an especially emotional game for all parties involved, as the aforementioned Dwyane Wade pays his first ever visit to Miami in a different uniform. The Hawks are rewarded with two nights off after the back-to-back and will host the young Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. Joel Embiid was the bright spot for the Sixers when these two teams met a couple of weeks ago, but it is unknown whether or not he will be rested for this one.