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Tom Thibodeau earns 200th career win as Bulls top Hawks

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Updated: April 2, 2014 11:34PM



ATLANTA — On a team that prides itself on having enough to win even without former league MVP Derrick Rose, reserve guard D.J. Augustin is becoming more and more indispensable with each game.

Take it from an unlikely source to acknowledge that — Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

‘‘He’s saved our season,’’ Thibodeau said after Augustin scored 23 points off the bench to rally the Bulls to a 105-92 victory Wednesday over the Atlanta Hawks before 17,029 at Philips Arena.

‘‘He’s a big shot maker. He’s made big plays, not only with his shooting but with his playmaking — you trap him, and he hits the open man. D.J. can beat you a lot of different ways: with the shot, the pass, his penetration. He’s been terrific. It’s a big plus to have him.’’

Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler each scored 17 points, Taj Gibson added 10 points and seven rebounds, Carlos Boozer scored 12 points and Joakim Noah had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Bulls (43-32) stayed tied with the Toronto Raptors (43-32) for third place in the Eastern Conference.

Augustin, who made 8 of 15 shots, including 4 of 8 three-pointers, in 28 minutes, scored 14 of his points in the second quarter, when the Bulls broke away from a 31-31 tie to take a 54-45 lead at halftime.

He made a variety of shots, including one long-distance shot when he drew contact from a defender and still managed to muscle up a shot from just inside the three-point line early in the second quarter.

When the Hawks closed to 73-70 in the third quarter, Augustin scored on a drive for a three-point play and a 76-70 lead. He hit a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter to make it 83-72. When the Hawks closed to 93-87 with possession with less than four minutes left, Gibson blocked DeMarre Carroll at one end and Augustin nailed a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 96-87 lead and all but clinch it.

Has he really saved the season?

‘‘I really don’t pay attention to that, even though he’s my coach and making that comment,’’ Augustin said. ‘‘It’s a great thing to hear. But, at the same time, I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff. These guys are a great team without me. I’m just trying to come in and do my part.’’

Augustin had plenty of help as the Bulls absorbed the Hawks’ best shot in the first quarter and took control. The Hawks made 10 of 15 shots in the first quarter, including 5 of 6 three-pointers. But after taking a 22-16 lead, they settled for a 31-all tie after one.

Augustin’s big second quarter put the Hawks in a hole they never could recover from.

‘‘D.J. Augustin is having a heck of a year,’’ Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. ‘‘They do things for him. They set a lot of screens for him. There were a couple of times we lost track of him a little bit. A couple of times, he made tough plays and tough shots.

‘‘That’s what he’s been doing all year. Look at a Bulls box score, and Augustin’s got 33, Augustin’s got 30 or 28. He’s been a huge boost for them. Tonight was very similar. We gave him a lot of attention.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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