Bulls take it inside to overwhelm Atlanta
After playing well for three of four quarters against Golden State on Wednesday, the Bulls carried that confidence into Atlanta for the start of a three-game road trip.
Even without starting point guard Kris Dunn, the Bulls delivered a convincing 113-97 victory over the Hawks by pounding the ball inside. Center Robin Lopez led the Bulls with 20 points, while Lauri Markkanen had six dunks on his way to 19 points.
"We knew it was going to be an important game for us after a tough loss against Golden State," Nikola Mirotic told reporters after the game. "I think that game gave us confidence that we can beat any team in the league."
Dunn is in concussion protocol after suffering a nasty fall late in the Warriors game. He did not make the trip and coach Fred Hoiberg said Dunn will not join the team in New Orleans for Monday's game.
Jerian Grant got the start at point guard, finishing with 8 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds. Two-way player Ryan Arcidiacono played backup minutes and scored his first NBA points. He went 2-for-2 from 3-point range for 8 points.
The Bulls (18-28) never trailed and led by as many as 25 points. They improved to 15-8 since making a sudden turnaround on Dec. 8. Atlanta (13-32), meanwhile, is in a tight race with Orlando and Sacramento for the league's worst record.
"I thought we really played a complete game tonight," Hoiberg said. "We went out there and shared the ball. Made sure coming out we had good quality possessions. Overall, really complete performance by our guys."
Markkanen went 0-for-4 from 3-point range, ending his streak of 12 consecutive games with multiple 3-point baskets. That tied for the longest streak by an NBA rookie with Orlando's Mike Miller in 2001.
The Bulls got Markkanen some good looks at the basket with some quality passing. They tied their season-high with 31 assists on Saturday.
"I know I can't just shoot 3s," Markkanen said. "I've got to get to the rim. Eventually that's going to open a lot more space for 3-pointers and stuff like that. I just try to mix it up."
Lopez also got plenty of good looks inside, abusing Atlanta centers Miles Plumlee and Dewayne Dedmon. For most of his 10 years in the NBA, Lopez has been known as a defensive specialist. In his last five games, Lopez is averaging 15.6 points and shooting 68.5 percent from the field.
Zach LaVine was slated to increase his workload to 24 minutes in his fourth game back from knee surgery. But since the game wasn't close, LaVine played just 18 minutes. He hit 2 of 9 shots for 8 points and 9 rebounds.
LaVine and Mirotic both went scoreless in the first half. Mirotic finished strong and ended up with 10 points, while Bobby Portis scored 14 off the bench.
The Bulls went 14-for-32 from 3-point range, collecting at least 10 3s for the 10th straight game, easily the longest streak in franchise history.