After a 24-point margin had been whittled to five, Ben Gordon bailed the Bulls out. He scored their final 10 points and Chicago held on for a 111-99 win Saturday night.
“I was struggling a little bit in the second half, but then I just tried to take over in the fourth quarter and get my team going,” Gordon said after the Bulls matched their longest winning streak of the season at four. “Fortunately I was able to knock down some big shots.”
Johnson scored 32 of his career-high 40 points in the second half to spark Atlanta’s rally. He made 13 of 16 shots in the second half during a stellar offensive display that kept the Hawks in the game.
“We came out in the second half with a lot more energy. Down the stretch of the game we just didn’t come up with the big plays,” Johnson said.
“I was more assertive on both ends and my teammates were finding me when I was open. I would trade it (his career high) for a win.”
Gordon finished with 23 points and Kirk Hinrich added 22 for the Bulls, 18 in the opening half when Chicago built a big lead against the NBA’s worst road team.
But the Hawks didn’t fade, despite their poor start.
Johnson’s 3-pointer got Atlanta within 93-86 with just more than 8 minutes left. Andres Nocioni, who had nine points in the fourth quarter for Chicago, scored on a goaltending call.
Gordon came to the rescue, hitting three straight baskets and later adding four free throws over the final 2:28 as the Bulls held on.
“Both teams were tired, playing through exhaustion,” said Gordon, noting that both teams had also played Friday night.
Atlanta missed its first seven shots and 10 of its first 11, finishing the first quarter just 7-for-27 (26 percent) and falling into a big hole from which it never recovered.
Hinrich had 12 quick points, his three-point play and Luol Deng’s jumper gave the Bulls a 25-9 lead. The lead went to 18 and Chicago led 31-15 at quarter’s end, shooting 67 percent.
Rookies Salim Stoudamire and Marvin Williams helped the Hawks get within 10 in the second quarter, but Hinrich converted a three-point play after being fouled on a jumper and then sank a 3-pointer to push it back to 55-37.
“We were embarrassed in the first half,” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. “I’ve got to take responsibility for our play in the first half. It was awful, unacceptable. We came back in the third and fourth quarters and competed.”
The Bulls led by 24 in the third period before Johnson scored seven to spark a 12-0 run as the Hawks closed within 86-72 with one quarter remaining.
“At halftime we knew we could make a run at them,” Johnson said. “Our consistency this season has been terrible. We need to find a way to get ourselves up and be aggressive against every team.”
Zaza Pachulia’s follow and a 3-pointer by Stoudamire got Atlanta within nine early in the fourth before Nocioni rescued the Bulls’ stagnant offense with seven points.
Chandler had 14 rebounds and 10 points while Deng finished with 18 points for the Bulls.
Members of the World Series winning Chicago White Sox were introduced at the half and received one of the loudest ovations of the night as they passed the championship trophy around and held it up to the crowd. First baseman Paul Konerko carried the trophy onto and off the floor. … The Bulls have beaten the Hawks five straight after sweeping four games last season. … Atlanta is now 3-17 on the road. It was the Hawks’ first road contest after a seven-game homestand. … Chicago now plays seven straight on the road.