NBA: Bulls 114, Hawks 81

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Associated Press
From around the NBA…
ATLANTA ó Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls turned a heartbreaking loss in Atlanta into more motivation for their surge to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Rose had 30 points and 10 assists, helping the Bulls move back in the Eastís top spot with a runaway 114-81 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
The Bulls began the night tied with idle Boston for the conferenceís best record.
Chicago led by 19 points in the second quarter of their 83-80 loss in Atlanta on March 2. Since then, the Bulls have won 10 of 11, including two lopsided wins over Atlanta.
Rose said the Bulls made sure there would be no repeat of the loss to the Hawks earlier this month.
ěRight when we got the lead we were just telling each other itís not going to happen again,î Rose said. ěAfter that game, we all felt bad. It hurts. We donít want that feeling anymore.î
Rose closed the first half with three 3-pointers, including one just before the half ended. The Bulls led 72-43 at the break after outscoring the Hawks 41-22 in the second period. Chicago made 31 of 42 shots (73.8 percent) in the half and finished at 54.4 percent.
Fans chanted ěMVP! MVP!î during Roseís spree of 3-pointers. He went 6 for 8 from long range for the game.
The Bulls are making it more difficult for coach Tom Thibodeau to find fault in their wins.
Thibodeau said he wasnít satisfied with Chicagoís defense in its 132-92 home victory over Sacramento on Monday night. One night later, the Bulls tightened their defense as Rose and Luol Deng led a devastating first-half offensive performance.
Chicagoís starters sat out the final period after the Bulls set season highs with 41 points in the second period and 72 points in the first half. Deng finished with 27 points.
ěWe have a lot of confidence,î Deng said. ěWhen our mindset is right on defense, we seem to work harder on offense. When weíre not as focused on defense, it kind of leads to our offense. We just go through the motions. So it always starts with defense.î
Added Deng: ěWeíre trying to do great things in the playoffs.î
Still, Thibodeau took a look at the Hawksí 45.3 field-goal percentage and said there is room to improve.
ěUh, yeah,î Thibodeau said. ěThey shot too high of a percentage. So, defensively thereís a lot of things we can clean up. But I like the fact that we got the big lead, and we played tough with the lead.î
The Hawks were denied an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and absorbed their first home loss to Chicago in four years.
Jeff Teague scored 17 of his 20 points in the fourth for Atlanta, which trailed 98-60 after three and also decided to rest its starters in the final period. Josh Smith and Al Horford had 14 points apiece, but Horford departed in the third with a strained hamstring.
Hawks coach Larry Drew said he expects Horford will be able to play Wednesday at Philadelphia.
The Hawks, who lost 100-59 to New Orleans at home on Jan. 21, came close to a second 40-point home loss. Chicagoís big lead was 47 points.
ěThis is starting to get embarrassing,î Smith said, adding the Hawks showed ěno resistanceî in their seventh loss in the last 10 games.
ěWe didnít help each other, and when you donít help each other it gets contagious,î Smith said.
The Bulls were almost perfect in pulling away from the Hawks in the first half.
With 4:50 remaining in the second quarter, Drew called a timeout after Kyle Korverís 3-pointer gave the Bulls a 57-35 lead. Atlanta had made 52 percent of its shots from the field and still trailed by 22 because the Bulls were shooting at a season-best pace.
Chicagoís best shooting game of the season came on Dec. 21, when they shot 64.5 percent from the field in a home win over Philadelphia. Against the Hawks, the Bulls were even better ó for a half.
The Bulls continued to stretch the lead in the second half. Rose had 10 points in the third quarter while earning the early exit.
The Hawksí frustrations showed when backup center Zaza Pachulia and Drew exchanged sharp words on the bench late in the game. The 7-foot Pachulia left after missing a long jumper.
ěI told him I didnít want him taking that shot,î Drew said. ěHe shoots an 18-foot shot. Thatís not his shot. … I told him ëYou donít take that shot.í That was the end of that.î
NOTES: Chicago ended a six-game losing streak in Atlanta, winning at Philips Arena for first time since April 1, 2007. … The Bulls made 17 of 21 shots while scoring a season-high 41 points in the second ó the most Hawks have allowed in any period this season. The Bullsí 72 first-half points also are the most Atlanta has allowed in a half this season. … Chicago outscored Atlanta 48-18 in the paint.
The Associated Press
03/22/11 23:52