Remember Mar. 2? Derrick Rose did and so did the Bulls.
Building up up a 19-point lead in the first half, only to see the Hawks outscore them 50-30 in the second half, capped off with a Rose turnover with 23 seconds remaining that would be converted on the other end for the winning score.
One night after handing the Sacramento Kings a 40-point whipping, the Bulls (51-19) made sure the Atlanta Hawks (40-31) knew who was the superior, drubbing them 114-81 on the same floor the Hawks celebrated on after that win in early March.
In proceeding two match-ups after that loss in early March, the Bulls have outscored the Hawks by a total of 51 points.
Rose took game high honors with 30 points, while finishing with a career-high 6 three-pointers on 8 attempts to go along with 10 assists. Luol Deng finished with 27 points.
The margin of victory set a team record for biggest margin of wins in back-to-back games with 73 points, breaking the previous record of 70 set back in 1995.
The Bulls used a 72-point first half that overwhelmed the Hawks and appeared to take all the fight out of the slumping club that’s now lost 10 of it’s last 16 games since the All-Star break. At one point in the second quarter, Chicago converted on 16 straight field goals with each basket seeming to suck the life out of Atlanta.
The Bulls finished the second quarter with 41 points and only missed 4 shots in the period while shooting 81 percent.
Rose and Deng both led the team with 20 points apiece at intermission. While both played aggressively in looking for their shots, Rose’s 4-4 on three-pointers was most impressive including his last one at the buzzer before overtime over former teammate Kirk Hinrich. It was his third three in the last minute of the period.
“That’s what they were giving me,” Rose told reporters afterwards. “I told you, I’m not going to stop shooting, no matter what. If they go under a screen or if I’m open, coach tells me to shoot — the game tells me to shoot — so I’m putting a shot up.”
There would be no comeback bid in the second half, as the Bulls continued their pace and Atlanta’s offense fell apart as the team begin to try and go one-on-one. What remained of the Hawks fan base would begin to file out of Philiphs Arena while a large Bulls contingent stayed to watch the Bulls reserves wrap up the fourth quarter.
The Bulls outscored the Hawks 48-18 in points in the paint, outrebounded them 40-26 and the ball movement accumulated 30 assists. Clearly a beating in all aspects.
“We’ve been there before,” said Deng about the position the team was in during the first half. “It’s not the first time we had a huge lead. The main focus was to really come out in the beginning of the third quarter and just play, don’t look at the score. Tonight we didn’t play to our opponent. We just played Bulls basketball, just like we do in practice. Play defense, move the ball and execute.
More important than the last two victories have been the Bulls openly talking about winning a championship in recent weeks. While they’ve always said their eyes are on one goal and their belief in themselves that they are ready to achieve something special, saying the word “championship” shows the true confidence of this team that still has everyone surprised.
“We just want to be consistent with our approach,” said Coach Tom Thibodeau, repeating a phrase most close to the team know by heart now. “We want to be able to count on the defense. If we play the right away offensively, where we push the ball up the floor, get some easy baskets, go inside-out, share the ball and take care of the ball, don’t turn it over — we’re going to be in position to win. I liked how unselfish we were.”
The next test will be Friday, where they will face a Memphis Grizzlies team that is playing inspired basketball as they’re trying to hold on to a playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The Bulls defeated the Memphis 96-84 on Jan 17 and can sweep the season series with a victory.
Me and good friend Jack Silverstein at Chicago Now took a look at Rose’s top six performances of this season. It was hard just coming up with six, knowing there have been so many memorable ones so far this season but you can take a look HERE to see what games matterd the most to us and why.