Pro basketball

Bulls start fast, overwhelm Hawks

2014-02-11T21:15:00Z 2014-02-12T12:31:33Z Bulls start fast, overwhelm HawksAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
February 11, 2014 9:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Coach Tom Thibodeau's pre-game media chats are becoming shorter and a bit more confrontational.

Soon, he may just email a statement to media on what his Bulls must do to win.

Tuesday night, they took on another struggling team in the Atlanta Hawks and were without forward Carlos Boozer (calf injury).

"He's out," Thibodeau said.

How long until Boozer is available?

"It's day to day," Thibodeau said.

Is there something specific you can do about your offense averaging only 92 points per game, asked former Bull and Comcast SportsNet analyst Will Perdue.

"Score," Thibodeau said.

In 10 words or more, Perdue continued.

"We're trying to win. That's what we're trying to do," a testy Thibodeau replied. "We have to play to our strengths and cover up our weaknesses."

Three hours later, Joakim Noah had lightened the mood considerably with his 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists to key a 100-85 Bulls win.

Taj Gibson, starting in place of Boozer, had a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

"I'm not trying to get accolades," Gibson said. "I'm all about helping my team by doing whatever I have to. I don't think about how many points I'm gonna score. I actually like doing both, starting and coming off the bench to provide a spark.

"Not many guys in this league can do that."

Chicago (26-25) led by as many as 25 points in the second quarter, 55-30, and the Hawks got no closer than eight in the final period.

"Joe was unbelievable and his rebounding was off the charts," Thibodeau said. "Taj was very, very good. He's scoring in a lot of different ways and doing a good job of reading defenses.

"Joe and Taj have been terrific up front."

Paul Millsap's 15 points topped Atlanta (25-25).

The Boozer situation has not set well with Thibodeau, who was openly criticized in the media by his frustrated power forward. Boozer couldn't understand why he's parked on the bench during fourth-quarter runs and often sits out the entire period.

Gibson, meanwhile, is making Boozer less relevant with every big game he has.

Boozer was averaging 14.8 points in 30 minutes per game; Gibson 12.6 points in 29 minutes.

Prior to the Hawks game, Chicago was 4-1 when Boozer doesn't play and 21-24 when he does.

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