What a difference a day makes.
On Friday, the Atlanta Hawks were squarely defeated by the Philadelphia 76ers, giving up 26 points on turnovers and being outscored 40-24 in the paint and 20-11 on fast breaks, for a 99-80 decision in the City of Brotherly Love. Meanwhile, an hour away the Chicago Bulls were surviving a tough physical matchup with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
But it was now a day later at Philips Arena and the ensuing matchup between the Hawks, ranked third in Eastern Conference standings, and the Bulls, ranked fourth.
Led by center Al Horford’s 20 points, the Hawks had little difficulty defeating Chicago, 92-75, despite the Bulls’ success on the road.
Chicago came to town boasting a 6-0 road record against conference teams even without its leading scorer Derrick Rose. But clearly the energy-consuming, two-day trip to New York and then to Atlanta, took its toll on the Bulls.
On the other hand, Atlanta had played miserably in Philly. The Hawks were not only determined to regroup from their poor showing in the last game, but certainly didn’t want to let the Bulls’ success away from home continue.
“They [Bulls] had a really physical game against New York last night, and we didn’t play well and were not at our best against the ‘Sixers,” said Atlanta coach Larry Drew.
“We played with a lot more energy tonight. Across the board, I think this was our most complete game this season,” Drew continued.
After trailing by four going into the second quarter, Horford and teammates Lou Williams and Kyle Korver provided a spark that pushed Atlanta’s lead to 16 by halftime. Horford scored 10 points in the period on perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field, while Williams and Korver had 11 and nine points respectively to pace the takeover.
The Hawks also began to pick up the rhythm in the second, outscoring the Bulls on fast-break points, 8-0, and going on a 25-6 run. Williams also hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep the momentum going.
By halftime, the Bulls had committed nine turnovers, giving up 13 points to Atlanta.
The Hawks’ lead grew to as much 25 by the 4:28 mark in the third quarter with balanced scoring from Josh Smith, Jeff Teague and Horford. During the period, Atlanta shot 52.6 percent from the field, while the Bulls struggled with 35 percent.
Defensively, the Hawks held Chicago forward Luol Deng to nine first-half points and just two throughout the last two quarters. Deng came in averaging 18 points per game this season, and in his 25 previous career games against Atlanta, had averaged 17.3 points.
Despite outscoring the Hawks in the fourth, Chicago could get no closer than 17 in the final period.
The only other Chicago player to reach double figures was Jaochim Noah with 10 points.
Besides Horford, Williams (16), Korver (13), Teague (11) and Smith (12), reached double digits for Atlanta.