On the eve of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first Chicago Bulls’  championship team, Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen were in the house as the Bulls-Hawks game.  It wasn’t the “Madhouse on Madison” of old, across the street in Chicago Stadium.  But these new-breed Bulls are doing their great, past teams some justice with their play.

The Chicago Bulls have now won their fifth straight game by defeating the Atlanta Hawks, 94-76, on Friday night.  They did so even without the services of Carlos Boozer and with Luol Deng with some lingering pain from a left thigh bruise.

To the surprise of many, Tom Thibodeau elected to start the veteran Kurt Thomas in Boozer’s place, instead of Taj Gibson.  It was a move that visibly paid off.  Derrick Rose picked up two early fouls and coach Thibodeau was forced to go to his second unit early.  But Gibson, well-accustomed to playing as a reliever, and the Bulls’ bench held their ground against the Hawks’ main rotation of players.

Al Horford was contained by Kurt Thomas and was held to six points and seven rebounds for the night.  It was a huge difference from the Bulls’ loss in Atlanta early this March when Horford led the Hawks back from a 19-point deficit by matching a career-high of 31 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.

Chicago demolished Atlanta on the glass, 50-28.

Tom Thibodeau again made the right defensive adjustments at halftime.  By the end of the third quarter, the Bulls turned a two-point deficit into a 12-point lead. 

The Hawks were held to just 26 (that’s right… twenty-six) points in the final two periods.

It is far from the first time the Bulls have suffocated an opposing offense with lock-down team defense in the second half, and it very likely will not be the last…

Derrick Rose capped off a stellar night (34 points, six rebounds and five assists) by crossing over Jeff Teague in such a way that prompted Bulls’ play-caller Stacey King to make a comment regarding Teague ‘checking his shoe laces’ and dishing an assist to newly acquired Rasual Butler for a three-pointer in the corner— Butler’s first points as a member of the Bulls.

The cherry on the sundae was a nothing-but-net 20-foot jump shot by Brian Scalabrine in the closing seconds to bring the United Center crowd to a roar.

With the Bulls’ victory and the Boston Celtics’ loss on Friday night, Chicago has now moved within half of a game behind the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

It will be a festive night once again tomorrow in the U.C. as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong, Craig Hodges, Stacey King among others will be honored at halftime of Chicago Bulls-versus-Utah Jazz game. 

These 2011 Bulls will try to make it six consecutive wins as they chase (one of last decade’s champions) the Boston Celtics— much like the 1991 Championship-winning team.

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