This might be the right time to challenge one of Tom Thibodeau’s most familiar lines — “We have more than enough to win with.”
It’s tough to say the Bulls had more than enough in Atlanta on Saturday. Maybe exactly enough, but there wasn’t much to spare.
Once again playing without Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich — and this time on the second leg of back-to-back games — the Bulls not only had enough to win, they dominated the Hawks 93-76 at Philips Arena.
“We spoke before the game about how hard we played (Friday in Brooklyn),” Deng said. “We were happy with it, but we just told each other if we play hard and we don’t win, we don’t get rewarded for that. So we definitely wanted to finish the whole game, the whole 48 minutes.”
Thibodeau basically used six players. Marquis Teague was on the floor for seven minutes and Vladimir Radmanovic logged a rust-covered five minutes. Neither accomplished much.
The Bulls rode three guys who played at least 45 minutes — Luol Deng (25 points, 14 rebounds), Taj Gibson (19 points, career-high 19 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (16 points, 10 rebounds).
Nate Robinson (20 points, 8 assists) checked in at 41 minutes, while Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton split time at shooting guard and combined to hit just 4 of 22 shots.
These numbers are astonishing because the Bulls had a tough loss in Brooklyn on Friday with Gibson playing all 48 minutes and Deng going all but three seconds. Atlanta had the two previous nights off.
“They kept giving me electrolytes during the game, but I just kept wanting to play,” Gibson told reporters after the game. “I know late in the game (Friday), I ran out of gas and I didn’t want that to happen tonight, because I felt like we let one slide last night and this team is even better. So I had to go out there and just play a little harder.”
When the Bulls jumped to a 24-17 lead in the first quarter, it was easy to wonder if it would be short-lived. They trailed 44-43 at halftime, then dominated the third and fourth quarters. The Hawks shot just 39 percent overall.
“They came out and just forced their will the whole game,” Atlanta center Al Horford said. “They dominated. They were by far the more aggressive team.”
Before the contest, Thibodeau gave an update on Hinrich, who returned to Chicago on Friday to have his right elbow checked out by team physician Brian Cole.
“It’s probably going to be about a week or so,” Thibodeau said. “They cleaned it up. He needs a little bit of time for it to heal up. It was just swollen. It was in a tough place because he kept breaking it open. He’s on the floor all the time.”
Noah missed his second game suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot and there’s no way of knowing when he’ll be back on the floor. Boozer missed his third straight game with a sore right hamstring.
The Bulls (29-18) are now halfway through the six-game “ice show” road trip. Next, they’ll move on to Indianapolis for Monday’s makeup of the Dec. 26 snowed out game with the Pacers, followed by a trip to Denver and Utah.
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