MR.CUB Passes away at age 83.

Hard to imagine that MR.CUB-ERNIE BANKS has died at the age of 83, just shy of his 84th Birthday. Ernie hit 512 homers, in his 19 year career–all as a Cub,yet he never appeared in a Post season game. Needless to say, I got to now Ernie over the years. The one story that stands out to me was in 2000 when the Cubs opened the Regular Season against the Mets in Tokyo,Japan-which I covered. The morning after the second game, I was finishing breakfast in a restaurant on the top floor of the Hotel we were staying at, and all of a sudden a voice calls me over to his table–it was Ernie Banks. We chatted for about 90 minutes–and it was about everything EXCEPT Baseball! I’ll never forget it, or any other time I was with MR.CUB-including that day in July 1969 at Thillens Stadium when he and Fergie Jenkins appeared at a Charity Softball event I ran at age 17, 2 weeks after I Graduated from High School. Notice the photo. Also, APOLLO 11 lifted off for the Moon the next Morning.
Thanks for everything Ernie, and please say hi to Ron Santo and Jack Brickhouse!

Bulls wake up, rout World Champs 104-81

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Derrick Rose drove hard to the rim. The defense was at its stifling, suffocating best.More than anything, the swagger was back and so were the Bulls.Rose scored 22 points and struggling Bulls beat the San Antonio Spurs 104-81 on Thursday night.The Bulls came away with a much-needed win after dropping six of eight and handed the defending champions their most lopsided loss of the season.The Central division leaders broke this one open in the third quarter, outscoring the Spurs 31-20, and snapped San Antonio’s four-game win streak.

”It shows what we’re capable of doing,” All-Star Pau Gasol said.

Rose, who called out his team after Monday’s loss at Cleveland, led six Bulls in double figures.He was aggressive going to the rim, hitting 9 of 16 shots. Rose played just 45 seconds in the fourth quarter because of some stiffness and the lopsided score, but he expects to suit up at Dallas on Friday.Gasol added 12 points and 17 rebounds after being voted to his fifth All-Star game and first as a starter.Jimmy Butler scored 17 on just nine shots. Taj Gibson added 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Aaron Brooks scored 15, and the Bulls snapped a three-game home losing streak.After giving up at least 102 points in six of the previous eight games, The Bulls held San Antonio to 37 percent shooting. The Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard scored all of his team-leading 16 points in the first half.

”We just played embarrassing basketball,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”I want my money back.”

Rose had it going right from the start with 15 points the first half, and the Bulls headed to the locker room with a 46-40 lead that was about to get much bigger.Tony Snell converted a three-point play with 17.3 seconds left in the second quarter to start a 14-2 Bulls run that made it 57-42 early in the third. The Bulls stayed in control the rest of the way, putting aside the chaos for at least one night.The recent struggles combined with Rose’s criticism and a meeting between the players and coach Tom Thibodeau painted an ugly picture for a team that was rolling along before the recent slide.There is speculation that Thibodeau’s job is in jeopardy and that he is losing the locker room. It sure seemed like there was plenty of outside noise even if he shot down that idea, asking,

”What noise?’ ‘As I told you yesterday, I could care less, couldn’t care less, and I don’t think our team couldn’t care less about that stuff,” he said.
Popovich dismissed the idea of Thibodeau losing the team before the game and did it again afterward.”That’s baloney,” he said. ”Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Popovich was less than pumped to answer a question about ”Deflategate” before the game. He turned his head side to side and asked, ”Are you on this planet? Is this an NBA game tonight?”

NOTES—Spurs Guard Danny Green paid tribute to late ESPN sportscaster and fellow North Carolina product Stuart Scott on Thursday. He had ”Stu” emblazoned on his left sneaker and ”booyah” on his right one. ”He was great at it and he brought a different kind of culture to the sports world,” said Green, who wasn’t close to Scott but crossed paths with him over the years. ”He was more of how it really is, I guess, it’s hard to really explain. He’s the reason why I studied what I studied in school. I’ve got a communications degree. The media area, that’s something I wanted to do growing up if the basketball thing didn’t work out for me. He was somebody I looked up to from the day I met him.”….Joakim Noah missed his fourth straight game and F Mike Dunleavy Jr., his 11th in a row. Both have injured right ankles. Thibodeau said Noah has looked ”very good” practicing on a limited basis the past two days and that Dunleavy is ”very, very close” to returning….The Bulls Visit Dallas on Friday.

Demons surprise #24 Seton Hall 64-60

NEWARK—DePaul was trailing by eight points on the road to a nationally ranked team with five minutes left and its best player was soon to foul out.But Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell gave his team one message down the stretch as they faced No. 24 Seton Hall on Thursday night.

”It’s simple: Just believe,” Purnell said after his team rallied in the closing minutes for a 64-60 win. ”These are the things you have to do. The game was not over. I tried to preach to them that they had done it before, coming back from 13 against Marquette and 10 against St. John’s. This was like that. We had experiences like that.

”They had to believe.”

But not on the road and against a Top 25-ranked team. DePaul had lost 51 straight games against ranked teams dating to 2008 (No. 17 Villanova at home) and 2005 on the road (No. 16 Wake Forest).

”I wasn’t aware of that, but I’m not surprised,” said Purnell, in his fifth season at DePaul. ”A lot of that happened before I got here, but I knew we hadn’t beaten once since I’ve been here.”

The Blue Demons (11-9, 5-2 Big East) are off to their best start in any conference since DePaul left independent status in 1991. DePaul joined the Big East in 2005.The Blue Demons rallied after trailing 55-47 with 5:05 remaining. Soon after, the team’s leading scorer Billy Garrett Jr., whose father was once an assistant coach at Seton Hall, fouled out with 14 points. But the Blue Demons didn’t get demoralized.

”We certainly believe and have confidence that a team can build off things like this,” Purnell said. ”We were behind, so that made things hard. Billy fouling out made things harder. But we’re in a good mindset right now. We had other guys who stepped up offensively and made big plays. This is a really nice win for us.”

Myke Henry also scored 14 for the Blue Demons, who defeated Seton Hall (13-5, 3-3) for the first time on the road after four previous losses.Darrick Wood (11 points) and Rashaun Stimage (10 points) each hit clutch free throws in the closing seconds to enable the Blue Demons to get the win. Stimage, who came in averaging just 1.8 points per game, also grabbed a huge rebound with 3.9 seconds to ice the victory.DePaul outscored Seton Hall 17-5 over the final five minutes.Angel Delgado set career highs with 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Pirates. Khadeem Carrington added 12 before fouling out. Brandon Mobley added 10 points and eight rebounds.Leading scorer Sterling Gibbs scored just four points, shooting just 2 of 16 shots from the floor and missing all seven of his shots from beyond the 3-point line.

”He’s been playing at such a high level and getting a lot of attention, but tonight, he just had a bad night,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said.”It’s a good learning lesson for him. When he’s not making shots, he still has to make plays for his teammates.”

It looked as if Seton Hall had the game won, going on a 10-1 run, thanks to Mobley, who had two free throws, then had a monstrous breakaway dunk. Jaren Sina capped the run with a long 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 55-47 with 5:48 left.The Pirates held the Blue Demons for more than five minutes without a field goal.But the Blue Demons crept back into the game, courtesy of clutch plays from Wood and Stimage down the stretch. Wood’s power drive to the basket with 1:49 left gave the Blue Demons the lead for good.

”He’s never lacked for confidence,” Purnell said of Wood. ”He hit that 3, then made that play. He has offensive ability. We’re just trying to make him more consistent. He’s had games where he didn’t play at all, but hung in there and tonight he helps us win the game.”

The Pirates turned the ball over on two possessions with a chance to tie in the final minute.

”We just got happy,” Mobley said. ”We have to grow up. There’s not much more to say about it. We let them take this from us.”

NOTES—The Blue Demons are enjoying their best start in any conference since leaving independent status in 1991. DePaul joined the Big East in 2005 after stints in the now-defunct Great Midwest and Conference USA. … The Blue Demons have made at least one 3-point field goal in 664 consecutive games. … DePaul began a three-game, six-day road trip with the visit to the Prudential Center on Thursday night.DePaul is at Xavier Saturday at noon EST

OSU gets key calls, edges NU 69-67

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON—Freshman D’Angelo Russell scored a career-high 33 points, and Ohio State overcame an early deficit to beat Northwestern 69-67 in the Big Ten on Thursday.Russell’s 3-pointer with 3:34 to play snapped a 60-all tie, which answered the 3-pointer of Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb that created the deadlock. Russell’s sixth 3-pointer of the night made it 66-60 with 1:36 to play.NU’s Tre Demps hit a 3-pointer to pull the Wildcats within a point with 1.8 seconds to play, but Russell’s free throw in the final second sealed the outcome.Ohio State (14-5, 3-3) used a 16-7 run early in the second half to expand its lead to 11 points. A pair of 3-pointers from Russell, plus a jam from Sam Thompson (11 points), helped them pull away. Russell also pulled down seven rebounds and had six assists.Alex Olah led Northwestern (10-8, 1-4) with 16 points. Demps added 14 and Bryant McIntosh had 12.Ohio State, which trailed by 11 points after nine minutes, bounced back from Saturday’s loss at Iowa, while Northwestern dropped its fifth straight.Northwestern closed the gap to 56-54 behind 3-pointers by Dave Sobolewski and Olah, but a pair of jumpers by Russell pushed Ohio State ahead.The Wildcats had jumped to a 21-10 lead before Ohio State could get untracked. Four offensive rebounds in that stretch helped the Wildcats build the advantage, with Olah scoring three of the Wildcats’ first five baskets.A pair of 3-pointers by Russell kept Ohio State in contact, and his 16-footer from the wing triggered a 10-point run for Ohio State, which outscored Northwestern 28-13 the rest of the first half. Russell, selected as the Big Ten’s freshman of the week three times this season, had 12 points in the first half.

NOTES—OSU Coach Thad Matta’s 125th victory in Big Ten conference play tied him with Tom Davis of Iowa for 15th in league history.Northwestern: The 11-point lead the Wildcats built in the first nine minutes was their largest of the season in Big Ten play.Ohio State hosts Indiana on Sunday…..NU makes its first visit to Maryland for a conference game on Sunday.

Kane gets #200, Shaw scores twice as Hawks rout Coyotes 6-1.

Andrew Shaw broke out of a scoring slump with two goals, and the Blackhawks beat the struggling Arizona Coyotes 6-1 on Tuesday night.

”It’s all I’ve been thinking about, going out there, doing the little things,” Shaw said. ”Working, winning those 1-on-1 puck battles, and taking pucks to the net.”

Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists, and rookie Teuvo Teravainen had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks got back on track after dropping two in a row and three of four. Kane’s goal in the second was No. 200 for his career, and Teravainen had his first multipoint game in the NHL.

”I felt like we played the right way from the outset,” Kane said. ”Power play started us off, and then we just kind of took off from there.”

Antti Raanta made 35 saves while improving to 7-0 at home this season. Raanta started in place of Corey Crawford, who likely will get the nod in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.Arizona lost its sixth consecutive game, extending its season-worst streak. Lucas Lessio scored his first career goal in the second, and Mike Smith finished with 45 stops in the Coyotes’ final game before the All-Star break.

”Just got outcompeted, outworked in a lot of different areas,” Smith said. ”It was almost like we were on break before break started.”

The Coyotes played without left wing Mikkel Boedker, who had appeared in 257 consecutive games for the fourth-longest streak in team history. The 25-year-old Boedker, who leads Arizona with 14 goals, had his spleen removed after he was injured in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Winnipeg.Arizona coach Dave Tippett said everything is going wrong for his team right now.

”We’ve got to find some kind of plan and move our group ahead because this is unacceptable,” he said.

Shaw had just one goal in his previous 22 games. He played sparingly in the third period of Sunday’s 6-3 loss to Dallas, but he was much better right from the start against Arizona.The feisty center scored his seventh goal with a slick move at 12:48 of the first, faking a backhand before going to the forehand side to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. He celebrated by skating over to the boards and slamming his arms against the glass as the crowd of 21,427 cheered wildly.

”It was a relief. I needed it, for myself,” Shaw said. ”I just had to go out there and keep working and keep moving forward and simplify my game and I knew I’d get it.”

Shaw added a well-placed wrist shot in the final minute of the second. Duncan Keith set up the score by making a nice play along the boards to keep the puck in the Arizona zone.The Blackhawks also got a power-play goal from Jonathan Toews on the captain’s bobblehead night, and Blackhawks defenseman David Rundblad scored in the third period against his former team. It was Toews’ first goal since Dec. 21 against Toronto, stopping an 11-game drought.

”We wanted to have a good start and I thought we did that. And we just carried it through,” Keith said.

NOTES—Kane’s assist on Toews’ opening goal was his 542nd career point, passing Tony Amonte for ninth on the franchise list. … The Coyotes say Boedker is week to week following the surgery. D Zbynek Michalek also missed the game with an upper-body injury, putting Brandon Gormley in the lineup. … Blackhawks F Daniel Carcillo served the second game of his six-game suspension for an illegal hit on Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault in the second period of Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Jets. The Hawks also scratched injured F Kris Versteeg and D Tim Erixon. … It was coach Joel Quenneville’s 500th regular-season game with the Blackhawks.

Bulls mid-season tail-spin continues with 108-94 loss to Cavs

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

CLEVELAND—The pieces, old and new, are beginning to fit together.It’s taken some time, and there’s a long way to go. But the critiqued and criticized Cavaliers are starting to play like the team they were supposed to be.

”I like the way we’ve been the last few games,” LeBron James said following a 108-94 win over the Bulls on Monday night. ”I like the way we’ve played the last week. We’ve played some really, really good basketball.”

James scored 26 points and J.R. Smith added 20 as the Cavs, remodeled by two trades in recent weeks, entered a favorable portion of their schedule with their third straight win.Back home after salvaging a drama-filled trip out West with two wins in Los Angeles, the Cavs had little trouble with the Central Division-leading Bulls. Cleveland opened a 25-point lead in the third quarter and handed the Bulls their fourth loss in five games.Jimmy Butler scored 20 and Derrick Rose 18 for the Bulls, who played their third game in a row without starting center Joakim Noah (sprained ankle). The Bulls have dropped six of eight, and coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like what he’s seen from his team lately.

”We’ve got to decide when enough is enough,” a disgusted Thibodeau said. ”We’ve got to get better. It’s really that simple. The way we’re playing is not acceptable, so we have to change it.”

Smith made six 3-pointers, Kyrie Irving scored 18 with 12 assists and Kevin Love added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who have temporarily quieted talk that they’re not NBA title contenders and first-year coach David Blatt is in trouble. Cleveland can improve its record with three more home games this week and nine of its next 12 in Quicken Loans Arena.

”This was our best defensive game of the year,” said Blatt, who dismissed some recent negative analysis of his team. ”We have a long way to go but the ship is sailing in the right direction.”

Cavs center Timofey Mozgov scored 15 with 15 rebounds in his first home game for Cleveland since being acquired in a Jan. 7 trade from Denver.Playing his fourth game since missing eight with a strained back and knee, James didn’t have to carry the offensive load as Cleveland’s other starters combined for 69 points. And, the Cavs played with better energy on defense, which hasn’t been the case most of the season.Leading by 15 at halftime, the Cavs opened the third with a 10-2 run to open a 23-point lead. Love and Smith drained 3-pointers in the spurt that wobbled the Bulls, who got to 90-78 in the fourth, but James scored on a drive and Smith drilled a 3 to put the Cavs back in control.

”If we don’t have that edge, we’re going to continue to get our butt whupped,” said Rose, who sat out the fourth quarter. ”Basketball should be fun. It seems like we’re overthinking.”

Rose missed his first seven shots and didn’t make his first field goal until there was 1:10 left in the first half.Kirk Hinrich didn’t score in 26 minutes. …The Bulls has a tough stretch ahead with games vs. San Antonio, Dallas, Miami and Golden State. ”We’re halfway through the season,” Thibodeau said. ”Somehow the notion that it’s OK, we’ll be all right – no, no, it doesn’t work like that. This is what we have. It’s on us to figure it out. No one’s coming in to save the day. We’ve got to find the answer.”

NOTES—Rose came in averaging 25.5 points and 8.0 assists in his previous four games. Thibodeau believes Rose is finally getting back to form after two injury-plagued seasons. ”He’s gaining confidence,” Thibodeau said. ”I think he was going through a long period of time where he wasn’t playing and just getting that competitive edge back. That’s what made him so special prior to the injuries. When he’s like that, no opponent wants to see him.” … The Bulls are 15-6 on the road. …Mike Dunleavy missed his 10th straight game with an injured ankle…..Iman Shumpert, who hasn’t played since being acquired in a recent trade with New York, could make his Cleveland debut later this week from a dislocated left shoulder. Shumpert has participated in contact drills the past two days, and Blatt said it’s even possible the solid defender could start immediately. … Fresh off Ohio State’s national championship, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and starting quarterback Cardale Jones – a Cleveland native – were introduced to thunderous ovations. Before the game, Meyer visited with Irving and owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State alum.

Stars explode for three in third period to beat slumping Hawks 6-3

Cody Eakin and the Dallas Stars traveled to Chicago three times this season, and each time they had to face the Blackhawks on the second part of games on consecutive days.They found a way to grab the third one.Eakin had two goals and an assist, and the Stars scored three times in the third period of a 6-3 victory over the slumping Blackhawks on Sunday.Eakin had a short-handed goal in the first and a tiebreaking power-play score in the third as Dallas won for the third time in four games. The Stars (21-17-7) also earned their first victory of the season against the Blackhawks after they dropped their first three meetings.

”The game went back and forth,” Eakin said. ”They started strong and we didn’t, then we picked up our socks. The third period was good, which we needed, and that’s the difference.”

Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist for Dallas, which was coming off a 5-4 victory over Washington on Saturday night. Seguin is tied with Rangers star Rick Nash for the NHL lead with 28 goals.The Blackhawks (28-15-2) dropped consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 1-2 against Toronto and Winnipeg. The Blackhawks, who lost 4-2 to Winnipeg on Friday night, are just 3-5 in January after they went 10-2-1 in December.

”We’re not happy,” coach Joel Quenneville said. ”Home games. Games that we’re expected to win. Teams that played the night before. Points that you’ve got to have. Divisional games. It shows you our division’s competitiveness.”

Brandon Saad scored two goals for the Hawks, who had a 41-34 advantage in shots on goal. Saad has five goals and an assist in his last four games.The Stars and Blackhawks were tied at 3 when Johnny Oduya was sent off for tripping Seguin at 1:22 of the third. Eakin then capped a nifty passing sequence for Dallas with a tap-in goal.Erik Cole made it 5-3 when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Jason Spezza, and Shawn Horcoff added an empty-netter with a minute left. The six goals allowed were a season high for Hawks.Vernon Fiddler also scored for Dallas, and Jamie Benn had three assists. Kari Lehtonen had 38 saves.Patrick Kane scored his 21st goal, and Corey Crawford finished with 28 stops.

”You’re going to have your moments across the season,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ”We’re not going to overreact and make a huge deal or panic about anything. The same way we don’t get overconfident when things are going our way.”

The Blackhawks trailed 2-1 before they turned a strange play by Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn into the tying score. Benn was sent off for interference after he skated up to Marian Hossa from behind and flipped the forward’s stick out of his hands, all the way to the protective netting behind the Dallas net.Saad scored on the resulting power play, tipping home a rebound after a long shot for Sharp. After Fiddler scored on his own rebound in the final minute of the first, Saad tied it again when he spun around and flung the puck past Lehtonen for his 15th goal at 7:13 of the second.

NOTES—The Stars and Blackhawks play again on March 21 in Dallas. … The Blackhawks scratched Daniel Carcillo, and the veteran forward is likely headed for a significant suspension after his illegal hit on Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault in the second period of Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Jets. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced during Sunday’s game that Carcillo is scheduled for a phone hearing on Monday. … Stars D Trevor Daley missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. … The crowd of 22,135 was the 300th consecutive sellout for the Blackhawks, including the playoffs.

Demons rally, beat St.Johns 71-67 in OT

ROSEMONT—Myke Henry scored 19 and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds to help DePaul overcome an 11-point second-half deficit and beat St. John’s 71-67 in overtime on Sunday.Billy Garrett Jr. made 13 of 13 free throws and finished with a season-high 20 points for DePaul (10-9, 4-2 Big East), which already has its most conference wins since the 2007-08 season. Aaron Simpson added a career-high 13 points.Forrest Robinson hit a 3 and Simpson made 1 of 2 free throws to put DePaul up 67-63 with 1:34 left in overtime.Rysheed Jordan made a layup for St. John’s, but couldn’t convert the three-point play. After a turnover by the Blue Demons, Jordan made two free throws to tie it at 67 with 42 seconds remaining.Henry and Durrell McDonald hit a pair of free throws apiece from there to seal it for DePaul.Jordan, whose two free throws with 8 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, finished with 17 points, four assists and four steals for St. John’s (12-5, 1-4).

Indiana outlast Illinois 80-74

Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—The Hoosiers, Indiana coach Tom Crean believes, are turning into closers.Indiana closed out a pair of tough wins over the past week at home over first Ohio State and then Penn State.But on Sunday they weathered a storm on the road, falling behind early before pulling out a late win over Illinois, 80-74.

”The Ohio State game, the way we closed that, the Penn State game, the last two possessions,” Crean said. ”Bottom line is they’re growing up because there was such a good togetherness on both ends of the court.”

Indiana (14-4, 4-1 Big Ten) won a game of runs, using 21 points each from James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams.The key for Indiana, Williams said, was keeping its cool even as the points piled up for Illinois.

”You can’t stop communicating,” he said. ”Whenever you can grab momentum, you just grab it.”

Williams grabbed that edge for good Sunday with a put-back off a missed layup by Yogi Ferrell, putting the Hoosiers up for good, 72-71 with 1:24 to play.Illinois (12-7, 2-4) just came up one run short, Illini coach John Groce said.

”We had great attitude, great leadership. It wasn’t any of those things but it was just a high-level game,” he said. ”They made the last run, we didn’t have a chance to make the last run.”

Williams led the Hoosiers on the boards with nine rebounds.Kendrick Nunn led Illinois with a game-high 24 points and Ahmad Starks added a season-high 19.Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu fouled out with 3:42 left in what was a quiet game for the 6-11 center. He didn’t score, took just one shot and had two rebounds in 27 minutes.The Illini played Indiana’s game early, gunning 3-pointers, and it worked. Nunn had three early 3-pointers to drive Illinois to an 11-2 lead.But Indiana weathered that hot start.The Hoosiers went on a 14-2 run from there, taking their first lead at 17-16 with 11:31 left in the half on a 3-pointer by Nick Zeisloft.Both teams had multiple, long runs of dominance, and it was the last one by Indiana that decided the game.Malcolm Hill gave the Illini a 67-63 lead with 6:37 to play. With the sellout crowd roaring, the Illini had the momentum, too.But Williams hit a short jumper with 5:22 to play, quieting the crowd and keying the decisive 17-7 Hoosier run.

NOTES—Indiana has struggled in Champaign for years. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Hoosiers had lost 11 of their last 12 and five straight at Illinois, dating back to February 2000…..Illinois came through a brutal opening Big Ten stretch 2-4. That included four of their first five games on the road and two against Top 25 teams, a loss at Ohio State and a win at home over Maryland. No Big Ten team has opened with so many games away from home since the Buckeyes in 2009-10.

Bulls never lead in dropping 5th in last 7 as Hawks win 12th straight

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Kyle Korver made a season-high seven 3-pointers on his way to 24 points, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Bulls 107-99 Saturday night for their 12th straight victory.Al Horford added 22 points and nine rebounds as the Hawks matched the second-longest win streak in franchise history. Paul Millsap scored 16 and Jeff Teague had 17 points and 11 assists.The Hawks (33-8) have won 26 of 28 since a 7-6 start, surging to the top of the Eastern Conference with one of the NBA’s most efficient offenses and a stingy defense. They closed out the first half of the season with impressive road wins over the Bulls and Toronto on consecutive nights.Derrick Rose had 23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Bulls (27-15), which has dropped five of seven. Pau Gasol had 22 points and 15 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler scored 15.The Bulls and Atlanta also plaed on Dec. 15, with the Hawks winning 93-86 at home. It looks as if the gap between the division leaders has only increased since the first meeting of the season.Korver had 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from 3-point range as Atlanta led by as many as 14 on its way to a 48-39 advantage at the break. The Hawks jumped into passing lanes and used their active hands to disrupt the opponents offense, with the Bulls committing seven turnovers in the first quarter after they totaled seven during Friday night’s win at Boston.With a roster full of solid veterans, it seemed as if Atlanta was able to get an open look any time it wanted one. After Gasol’s layup got his team within eight in the second quarter, Millsap responded with a layup and Teague found Korver for a 3 to make it 48-35 with 2:02 to go.It was more of the same in the second half. Each time the Bulls made a run, Atlanta responded.Korver had a four-point play that made it 80-69 with 11:09 to go. After Rose had a slick layup on the break that got the Bulls within five, Horford buried a face-up jumper and Millsap made two foul shots to run the lead back out to 97-88 with 3:29 remaining.The Bulls played without center Joakim Noah, sidelined by a sprained right ankle for the second straight game. The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year was scheduled for an MRI on Saturday, but coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game that he had not received the results.Mike Dunleavy missed his ninth consecutive game with a right ankle problem, and rookie Doug McDermott remains out with a right knee injury.

NOTES—Atlanta had dropped its last seven games in the United Center, counting the postseason. It was the Hawks’ first road win against the Bulls since a 103-95 playoff victory on May 2, 2011…..Bulls: Rose went 4 for 10 from 3-point range and is 15 for 27 from beyond the arc in the last three games. … The Bulls have lost their last three at the United Center, dropping their home record to 12-10.