CHICAGO (AP)—Al Horford was everywhere. Grabbing rebounds, running the floor, picking up loose balls and scoring from the inside. It was the best performance of his career, an effort that kept the Atlanta Hawks unbeaten through six games.
On a night when leading scorer Joe Johnson had trouble with his shot, Horford scored a career-high 27 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead a 113-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
Atlanta’s start is its best since the 1997-98 Hawks won their first 11 games.
“It shows how deep this team is and we’re all unselfish,” Horford said. “Not every night is going to be Joe this year like it was previously. Now he has a supporting cast.”
And a good one.
Mike Bibby added 22 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to fend off a Bulls rally. The Hawks had six players in double figures, including Johnson, who finished with 17—eight below his average. He shot 4-for-16.
Atlanta got a lift off the bench from Maurice Evans, who scored 17 points including two late 3-pointers in the final quarter.
The Hawks made the most of their transition game, beating the Bulls up the floor.
“We knew they were a running team, and coach just said to run right back at them and they weren’t getting back, so we were getting easy points,” Horford said.
“Our defense was terrible,” Chicago’s Luol Deng said. “We did a poor job picking up guys in transition. We didn’t help each other.”
Rookie Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 26 points to match his career high and had a career-best 10 rebounds and stayed in the game, despite pulling a muscle in his back in the first quarter. Andres Nocioni chipped in 20 points.
Johnson, averaging 25.2 points, struggled with his shot, missing eight of his first 10 shots. But the Hawks got 16 first-half points from Horford and 10 from Zaza Pachulia to take a 55-52 halftime lead.
Horford outplayed Joakim Noah, his former University of Florida teammate on two NCAA championship teams, by using his strength and leaping ability on the inside. Noah finished with two points and eight rebounds.
“He plays a lot of defense. He ran the floor well and got a lot of baskets in transition. He wasn’t doing anything he doesn’t do,” Noah said. “He was playing within his game and things went his way. … His numbers were incredible tonight. He really controlled the game.”
Atlanta expanded the lead to 75-63 late in the third quarter with a quick 8-0 run capped by Horford’s dunk. The Hawks had a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter before the Bulls rallied.
Nocioni took a nice pass from Noah for a layup and Deng’s dunk and two free throws seconds later brought the Bulls to 85-83 with about 10 minutes left.
But two free throws by Marvin Williams and then consecutive 3-pointers from Bibby following Bulls’ turnovers quickly re-established a 10-point lead for Atlanta. The Hawks then held on with Evans’ two 3-pointers keeping the Bulls at bay.
“No one expected it but us,” Bibby said of the 6-0 start. “The only people who can stop us is ourselves.”
Noah got his first start of the season for the Bulls in place of Gooden, and Ben Gordon his second start in the Bulls’ thin backcourt. Gordon and Deng finished with 19 points each.
Hinrich underwent surgery on a torn ligament in his right thumb Tuesday and could be out as long as three months. … Evans shot 7-for-9, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.