Gooden hit his first five shots and finished with a season-high 31 points while matching a season best with 16 rebounds in the Bulls’ 103-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. It was his best performance since joining the Bulls in a trade from Cleveland a month ago.
“I’ve been feeling good as of late, comfortable in the offense and getting my shot in rhythm, whereas when I first got here I couldn’t knock down the outside shot for nothing because I didn’t know when it was coming,” Gooden said.
“I’m confident. I feel every time I shoot, it’s going to go in and tonight it just happened to go in.”
The Bulls, one of several teams chasing the Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, led by 12 after three quarters before Atlanta rallied within two with just more than six minutes left.
Ben Gordon’s 3-pointer with 1:27 to go gave the Bulls a 97-90 lead, and he added two free throws with 28 seconds left. Gordon finished with 16 points.
Luol Deng’s defense was also a big key for the Bulls in the fourth quarter. That’s when he blocked three shots, and Chicago didn’t squander a late lead as it had three times in the previous five games.
“I think we locked down and Luol stepped up and blocked shots,” Gooden said. “He was the catalyst.”
“We kind of got into too deep of a hole. You can’t go down 16 and expect to just come back,” Childress said. “We cut it to five, but kind of ran out of gas. Gordon hit a huge `3’ and that was the game.”
The Bulls took a 79-67 lead after three quarters, going on a 20-4 run that included two highlight-film plays from Joakim Noah. He went high to drop in a shot on a pass from Larry Hughes, and seconds later made a steal and took a pass from Kirk Hinrich for an emphatic dunk as the Bulls took a 10-point lead.
Hinrich’s 3-pointer, a basket by Luol Deng and a three-point play from Gooden capped the 20-4 spurt that put Chicago up 75-59.
Bibby’s 3-pointer brought the Hawks to within two before Noah drove for a three-point play. Atlanta was still down only three before Gooden took a pass from Deng after an offensive rebound for a layup that made it 94-89 with three minutes to go.
“It’s a big disappointment. It just seems like we didn’t have the energy tonight,” Johnson said. “We came out lackadaisical and we let Drew get off to a good start. Once a guy gets a rhythm, it’s hard to stop him. He had a big night for them.”
Gooden finished the first quarter with 16 points. He had 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting and 10 rebounds by the half as Chicago took a one-point lead. Bibby and Josh Smith had 13 each for the Hawks in the first half.
Gooden finished 12-of-23 from the field. Hinrich added 10 assists and the Bulls had 10 blocked shots. Chicago also made all 16 of its free throws. … Chicago’s Andres Nocioni, sent to the locker room in the second quarter of Saturday night’s game for yelling at interim coach Jim Boylan after he was taken out of the game, played 13 scoreless minutes. … The game featured ex-Florida teammates Noah and Al Horford of the Hawks. The duo led the Gators to back-to-back NCAA titles. Noah finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Horford had 13 rebounds and three points.