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Bulls Mon May 09 2011

Closing Surge Helps Hawks Tie Bulls at 2-2

As the two-time defending champion Lakers fell apart in Dallas, the Atlanta Hawks came out Sunday night determined to right their own ship. They did so with a fantastic final push, beating the Bulls 100-88 in Game 4 by closing the game with an 18-6 run in the final five minutes. The win evens the series at 2, with Game Five scheduled for Tuesday night at the United Center.

Thumbnail image for bulls hawks series logo.PNGDerrick Rose led the Bulls with 34 points and 10 assists (though he needed 32 shots to get there) and Carlos Boozer had his best game of the series, scoring 18 points in 35 active minutes despite playing with torn ligaments in his right big toe.

Despite a surprise eight-rebound performance from Omer Asik and 11 rebounds from Joakim Noah, it was the Hawks that owned the boards, particularly Josh Smith. Making his first real statement in the series, Smith amassed 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and a steal.

Atlanta's Al Horford and Joe Johnson also combined for 44 points on 18-of-25 shooting, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers by Johnson. Many looks went uncontested for the Hawks, leaving Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau with the task once again of instilling in his team the desire to play each defensive series like it's the last of the game. The Hawks hit 40 of 81 field goals, no doubt boosted by their 56-40 point advantage in the paint.

Rookie Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague continued to fill in admirably for Kirk Hinrich, doing just enough to help his team with 12 points and four assists, but more important, managing the game without any major mistakes. Like a rookie quarterback in the NFL, that's about all you can ask of an unproven key player, and no matter what happens, Teague will end up with a lot of confidence from his performance in this series.

But despite the lax defense of the Bulls, some of the credit for this loss should also go to the Hawks' defense. Rose was often double-teamed, forcing him to take tough shots, while Kyle Korver felt sufficient pressure outside to go 0-for-5 on 3-point attempts. After hitting 10 from beyond the arc in Game 3, Chicago shot just 3-for-16.

So it comes to this, a best-of-three showdown in the second round, despite Chicago's league-best 62 wins. Not exactly what Bulls fans might have expected, but then again, little about these NBA playoffs has been typical.

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