Al Horford set the tone with a strong start and got plenty of help. More important, Atlanta hit the All-Star break on a winning note after two tough losses.Horford scored 16 points, Jeff Teague had 17 points and eight assists, and the Hawks routed the struggling Bulls 113-90 on Wednesday night.Dennis Schroder had 18 points and made three of his team’s 13 3-pointers. Paul Millsap scored 15, and the Southeast Division leaders headed into the break with a win after back-to-back losses to last-place Orlando.
”We need the whole group,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. ”It can’t be Paul one night, Al one night, Jeff one night, Kyle (Korver). We need everybody to play well. And I think for the most part that was kind of how it was tonight.”
The Hawks led by five at halftime and broke it open in the third quarter, sending the sloppy Bulls to their fourth straight loss and 13th in 18 games.Pau Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls after being selected Tuesday to his sixth All-Star team as a replacement for injured Bulls teammate Jimmy Butler.Doug McDermott scored 17, but Derrick Rose was off target after missing a game because of soreness. The 2011 NBA MVP finished with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting, and the Bulls dropped their fifth straight at home, matching their longest skid since March 2010.
”I challenge them to do whatever they need to over the break, look themselves in the mirror and find a way to get committed to this thing and go on a run,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
It’s been quite a struggle for a team that saw itself as a threat to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Management thought bringing in Hoiberg and his fast-paced offense to replace the fired Tom Thibodeau would push the Bulls over the top. But the personnel and system have not meshed.Injuries are playing a role, and another one cropped up in this game. Taj Gibson exited because of a strained left foot, and the team announced late in the game that he would not return.The poor health does not completely explain the sloppy play. There was plenty of it in this game, with 19 turnovers leading to 25 points for the Hawks, and the crowd let the Bulls hear it, showering them with boos.
”Being able to come in here and win, it’s big for our team,” Horford said.
The Bulls inability to hang onto the ball, combined with Horford’s 13 points, led to a 53-48 halftime edge for Atlanta. The Hawks then put away the Bulls in the third, outscoring them 38-25.After Rose drained a 3-pointer 31 seconds into the second half, Atlanta went on a 15-2 run.Korver hit a pair of 3s and scored eight points during that stretch. Teague added five, and Millsap finished the run with a 16-foot turnaround jumper, making it 68-53.
NOTES—Gasol on whether the Bulls can regroup: ”I think we can be a lot better than we are. Hopefully this break helps us understand where we are, reflect on what we can do better.”….Nikola Mirotic had his stitches removed, and the team hopes to have him start working out in the pool in the next few days, Hoiberg said. Mirotic lost about 15 pounds following an appendectomy two weeks ago and the subsequent removal of a hemotoma. ”From the sound of things, it was the first complication that this particular doctor has ever had in an appendix removal,” Hoiberg said. ”It’s hard. It’s a tough blow for Niko. It’s a tough blow for (our team) because I thought he was playing good basketball.” … Hoiberg said Butler, sidelined by a strained left knee, will attend All-Star festivities in Toronto this weekend….The Bulls play at Cleveland on Feb. 18.