ATLANTA --- The range of expressions on Tom Thibodeau's face began with indignation and ended with resignation as the 3-point shots rained down on the Bulls on Saturday night at Phillips Arena.
The Bulls coach is known for his defensive-minded approach but it's impossible to stop a team that's accuracy improves the farther they get from the basket.
"This is the NBA," Thibodeau said. "You have to come every night. You have to bring great intensity. If you let down just a little bit this is what happens."
The Bulls rallied from 19 down in the third quarter to defeat these Hawks at the United Center last Tuesday but there was no coming back from this. Atlanta was playing for the third consecutive night and their two previous games included a total of four overtime periods, but it was by far the fresher team and led by as many as 29 in a 109-94 laugher.
"The way we played tonight was embarrassing," Joakim Noah said.
The first half was all Hawks. They made seven of their first eight from beyond 15 feet and led by 15 after the first quarter. The Bulls whittled it down to four before Atlanta closed the half on an 18-4 run fueled by four 3-pointers to lead 63-45 at the break.
The Bulls had only allowed one opponent to score 100 points this season but were never able to establish their defense in this one.
"Our defense was really bad," Luol Deng said. "We gave them the lead again. They had a lot of energy playing at home. Normally, we rely on our defense but they shot the ball well in the first half. Give them credit. But our defense has to be better."
The Hawks were shooting only 43 percent from the floor on the season but made made eight of nine 3-pointers in the first half and shot 62 percent from the floor. Carlos Boozer began the second half with a turnover, the Hawks continued their hot shooting and it soon became apparent that not even Derrick Rose could bring the Bulls back in this one.
The Hawks sent defenders at Rose and also trapped him. He sat out the entire fourth quarter and finished with eight points and six assists. It's precisely the type of defense he an expect in the playoffs, the kind of defense Miami used effectively against him in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
"I'll take the blame. Me," Rose said. "I didn't push the ball, I wasn't aggressive. I couldn't be because they were trapping me. But it's no problem for me to take the blame."
There was plenty of blame to go around, which can be expected when little-used point guard John Lucas III has a team-high 16 points. Kyle Korver had 13 points and five assists, rookie Jimmy Butler scored 12 and Taj Gibson 11 as no starter played more than 30 minutes.
Josh Smith had 25 points and six blocked shots for Atlanta. Vladimir Radmanovic was five of five from beyond the 3-point stripe.
"It's a wake-up call," Noah said. "We don't have anything figured out. It's on us. The reality is we have to do better. We can't start the game like that and have our bench bail us out every time."
The loss would be more troubling if the Bulls hadn't won six straight including Friday night's impressive win over Dwight Howard and the Magic.
"We're never going to have any excuses," Deng said. "We didn't show up and they played well."