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Hawks soar past Bulls for 12th straight win



CHICAGO — The Atlanta Hawks are playing the kind of basketball the Chicago Bulls would like to start playing.

They’re also winning a lot of games because of it. The Hawks won again Saturday night at the United Center, beating the Bulls 107-99 to match the second-longest winning streak in Atlanta’s franchise history with 12 straight victories.

Former Bulls guard Kyle Korver hit 7 of 9 from the 3-point line and scored 24 points to lead four Hawks in double figures and center Al Horford scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead a balanced attack.

“It’s the unselfishness of these players,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “They have a high basketball IQ and high character. They share the ball with each other. They enjoy that. Give them credit.”

The Hawks (33-8) shared it to the tune of 31 assists in this game, led by 11 from guard Jeff Teague (17 points) and six from guard Paul Millsap (16 points). Atlanta also kept the rebounding margin close against a team with more size. They were out-rebounded by the Bulls, but only by three (43-40).

Combined with the hot shooting night by Korver and key baskets down the stretch by him and Horford, it was enough to hand Chicago its third straight loss at home and fifth in the past 10 games played in the Windy City.

“They’re a great team with the way they move the ball, [and] the way they play defense,” said Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who led his team with 23 points and 10 assists to finish two rebounds shy of a triple-double. “They don’t have any super, super stars, but they have very good players and they love playing with each other, and it shows.”

Chicago, playing without injured starters Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy, stayed in the game despite the Hawks’ lead reaching as much as 15 points, 68-53, midway through the third quarter after a dunk by Teague.

They whittled the deficit to 93-88 with 4:25 left in the fourth after Rose’s spinning reverse layup, but just couldn’t get over the hump down the stretch. Every time the Bulls got a basket, the Hawks responded with points of their own from either Horford, Millsap, Teague or Korver.

It went that way pretty much all night, including a first quarter that finished with Atlanta ahead 24-16 after six points by another former Bulls player, forward Elton Brand. The Hawks never trailed and Chicago only pulled even on three occasions, all in the first three minutes of the game.

“Their four main guys had their way,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There were stretches where we played OK. They got us in the first quarter. We were chasing them the rest of the way and they played with the lead. They made it tough on us.”

The Hawks are making life tough on every team they play. Since beating the Bulls in the season’s first meeting Dec. 15, the Hawks are 16-1. Two more victories will tie their team record of 14 consecutive wins overall, which was set in 1993-94.

Atlanta also upped its win streak in road games to 12 straight to improve their league-leading road record to 17-5, two better than the second-ranked Bulls (15-5).

Only two other teams from the Eastern Conference have posted road winning streaks of at least 10 games in the past 15 years. The Miami Heat won 13 straight road games in 2010-11 and 2012-13, and the Philadelphia 76ers won 13 consecutive road games in 2000-01. Each of those teams advanced to the NBA Finals in those seasons.

The Hawks have now won 26 of their past 28 games, after starting the season with a pedestrian 7-6 record. It’s the best stretch in the NBA since 2012-13, when the Miami Heat won 27 straight games.

“They want to keep getting better,” Budenholzer said. “They want to see how good we can be. I don’t think they’re satisfied with anything to date, [and] I think it just goes back to how they’re built, the makeup of their character.”

NOTES: The Bulls played without starting F Mike Dunleavy (right ankle), starting C Joakim Noah (left hand, right ankle) and rookie reserve F Doug McDermott (right knee). … Noah, who has missed nine games with various injuries, sat out his second because of the current ankle issue. Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t have the results of an MRI taken Saturday on the ankle. … Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he made 32-year-old C Pero Antic inactive for the game in Chicago to help him remain healthy. Resting players is a preservation tactic used by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whom Budenholzer coached with as an assistant. … Hawks G Shelvin Mack, who scored two points in 6:45 against the Bulls, didn’t play in the second half because of a left calf strain.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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