Bulls beat Hawks behind big games from Luol Deng, Taj Gibson
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org February 2, 2013 10:36PM
The Bulls’ Luol Deng looks to shoot between Hawks defenders Kyle Korver and Ivan Johnson. He scored 25 points. | AP
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:50AM
ATLANTA — Even Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was impressed.
‘‘What can you say about Taj?’’ the tough-to-satisfy Thibodeau said after Taj Gibson and Luol Deng led a yeoman’s effort in the Bulls’ impressive 93-76 victory Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. ‘‘‘Nineteen points, 19 rebounds coming off a big-minute night [Friday against the Brooklyn Nets]. Hustle plays. Everything. Just playing terrific.
‘‘And then Luol’s Luol. Twenty-five points. Big shots. Fourteen
rebounds. Guarded everyone on the floor. Jimmy [Butler], same thing. Sixteen [points] and 10 [rebounds]. Front-line battling. The rebounding was a huge key. Defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball.’’
The Bulls showed something against the Hawks. With starters Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich out again because of injuries, they recovered from a disappointing loss to the Nets with a strong wire-to-wire performance on the road. And they were strong at the finish, outscoring the Hawks 30-16 in the last 14 minutes.
But Thibodeau only could gush so much. It’s still early in February.
‘‘It’s a step in the right direction,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘There’s still a long way to go. We’ve got to keep our concentration on improvement. There are still a lot of things we can do better; that’s what I want our team focused on. We’ve got to get ready for Indiana [on Monday].’’
It was a typical balanced effort for the Bulls. But perhaps the most impressive facet of the victory was that the four players who went 40 minutes or more against the Nets went 40 minutes or more a day
later and led the way: Deng (25 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, four steals in 46 minutes), Gibson (19 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, three blocked shots in 45 minutes), Nate Robinson (20 points, eight
assists, three steals in 41 minutes) and Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds, three steals in 46 minutes).
‘‘It’s the will to want to be there for my teammates,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘I wanted to hold down the post for Joakim and Booz. Just go out there and play. I just went out there and did my job.’’
Gibson is averaging 21 minutes this season, but he was strong at the end against the Hawks despite having played all 48 minutes Friday and 45 more Saturday.
‘‘I’m exhausted,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘They kept giving me electrolytes on the bench. But I just kept wanting to play.
‘‘I know late in the game [Friday] I ran out of gas. I didn’t want that to happen tonight. I just had to go out there and play even harder.’’
The Bulls started poorly and wilted at the finish against the Nets. Against the Hawks, though, they started strong — leading
24-17 after one quarter — and finished strong.
Hawks guard Kyle Korver made a three-pointer to cut the Bulls’ lead to 63-60 with 2:17 left in the third quarter, but Gibson scored on a tip-in after Richard Hamilton and Butler missed shots. Robinson made a jumper, then scored on a fast break off a pass from Deng to give the Bulls a 69-60 lead after three quarters.
The Bulls pulled away from there, with Deng making back-to-back three-pointers to open a 78-64 lead with 6:21 left.
‘‘I thought we played a good game [Friday], [but] we didn’t play for 48 minutes,’’ Thibodeau said.
Did they play 48 minutes against the Hawks?
‘‘We’re getting closer,’’ Thibo-
deau said. ‘‘But we can do better. And we’re going to have to do