ATLANTA (AP)—As they entered their fourth game in five days, the Chicago Bulls had every reason to be a step slow Saturday night.
Instead, the Bulls stayed a step ahead of the more rested Atlanta Hawks, who were playing for the first time since Tuesday night.
Luol Deng set an early high-energy pace with his fast-break baskets, and the Bulls never let the Hawks catch up, beating Atlanta 95-90 Saturday night for their sixth straight win in the series.
Deng, who led Chicago with 21 points, had three layups in the first 6 minutes as the Bulls never trailed.
“I’m just playing with a lot of energy,” Deng said. “It’s the other end— defense and rebounding—that gets me going. I’m just trying to play my hardest. I feel great.”
The Bulls, who swept four games from the Hawks last season, have won the first two games in this season’s series.
Chicago held off a late comeback sparked by Al Harrington, who scored 32 points with 10 rebounds.
“We had way too many days off,” Harrington said. “We lost our rhythm. We lost our feel.”
Said Hawks coach Mike Woodson: “We go out with the idea of winning the game each time we step on the floor, but that team played harder than we did tonight.”
The Bulls, chasing Philadelphia and Milwaukee for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, snapped a two-game losing streak.
Bulls coach Scott Skiles said it was as obvious from the opening minutes that his team had a spark Saturday night. But Skiles said it was clear the Bulls lacked that intensity in Friday night’s home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Skiles acknowledged the Bulls played as if their backs were against the wall in terms of playoff hopes against the Hawks.
“The problem is they’re against the wall every game right now and somehow we have to convince the guys of that,” Skiles said.
One game after scoring a career-high 42 points, Joe Johnson had 22 for the Hawks, including a basket to cut the deficit to 88-83.
Two free throws by Josh Smith with 30 seconds left pulled the Hawks within 91-88. Hinrich answered with two free throws with 14 seconds left and then iced the win with two more free throws with 8.3 seconds to play.
“I think we came into this game thinking that they were going to roll over because they played last night and they were tired,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re a hard-fighting team.”
Smith and Zaza Pachulia each had 11 points for Atlanta.
The Bulls, who have not lost to the Hawks since April 9, 2004, did not trail in the first half while shooting 53 percent from the field.
Deng, who had 13 points in the first half, helped the Bulls to an early 17-7 lead.
“We had good life from start to finish,” Skiles said. “We played, I think, very good defense with the exception of a handful of possessions, and that allowed us to run and get going.”
The Bulls led 47-39 at halftime after building another 10-point lead at 39-29. Chicago led 73-63 entering the final period and stretched the lead to 83-69.
Hinrich sat out much of the third quarter after falling early in the period. Skiles said Hinrich, who appeared to fall on his knee, had a cramp. … Hawks G Josh Childress missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. … Hawks C John Edwards was in uniform but missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. … The Bulls announced before the game that F Darius Songaila will be out six to eight weeks with a fractured right foot. Songaila had played in every game before Saturday night, averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds.