ATLANTA — From coach Mike Woodson to all but one player on the Atlanta roster, the Hawks’ victory Sunday over the Chicago Bulls was a new experience.
Yes, it had been that long since the Hawks beat the Bulls.
Joe Johnson scored 37 points, including 25 in the first half, and the Hawks beat the Bulls 105-84 on Sunday to end a 12-game losing streak in the series.
The Hawks had not beaten the Bulls since a 116-101 victory on April 9, 2004. For a young Hawks team, that’s a long time.
"We’ve never beaten them since I’ve been here as coach," said Woodson, who was hired in July 2004. "You have to tip your hat to the Bulls and their staff, because they’ve done a great job every time we’ve played them. But I thought it was just our night tonight."
Added Johnson, in his third year with the Hawks: "It feels great. It’s my first time beating them since I’ve been here. That’s for sure a good feeling."
The only Atlanta player to have played in another Hawks win over Chicago is veteran point guard Anthony Johnson, who is in his third stint with the team.
"Since I’ve been here we hadn’t beaten them, so I just wanted to do whatever it took for me to get the job done, for us to win," fourth-year forward Josh Smith said.
The Hawks put the Bulls in a big hole early, taking a 38-22 lead in the first quarter.
Joe Johnson had 19 in the quarter.
"They don’t come often, so when they do you have to take full advantage," Joe Johnson said.
Added Smith: "That gave us a big boost. Everybody got involved. It gave everybody momentum."
The Hawks built a 22-point lead in the first half and never let the Bulls mount a serious comeback.
"Our slow play in the first half really opened the gates for them," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "They were able to get out and run and get some transition baskets. We just kind of let them have their way."
Chicago cut it to 80-66 at the end of the third quarter, but a steal and 3-pointer by Joe Johnson midway through the fourth pushed the lead back to 91-72.
Johnson added nine rebounds and six assists.
Chicago pulled to 93-80 in the fourth quarter, but the Hawks answered with eight straight points.
Luol Deng led Chicago with 28 points in his return from missing three games with a sore Achilles’ tendon.
"At the beginning of the game I was a little tight and wasn’t able to get the normal lift that I usually get, but as the game went on it got better," Deng said.
"I tried to provide a spark offensively, but the Hawks just jumped on us early and made it tough for us to get anything going. In the second half we tried to make a run, but the Hawks had an answer for everything we did."
Andres Nocioni had 20 points, Joe Smith 12 and Kirk Hinrich 11 for Chicago.
Josh Childress added 14 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta.
The Hawks set a season scoring low in a 90-78 loss at Chicago on Nov. 27. They almost matched that total in the first half Sunday, setting a season high for points in the first half while building a 69-49 lead at the break.
The Hawks built their big lead on the run, outscoring the Bulls 23-7 on fast-break points in the half.
Another big difference in the two meetings between the teams this season: the Hawks outrebounded the Bulls 54-40 Sunday. In the earlier game in Chicago, the Bulls had 60-37 advantage.
Though the Hawks had only 11 points in the third quarter, they held the Bulls to 17.
In an unanimous vote by Chicago’s players, rookie Joakim Noah was benched for the game.
Noah had a confrontation with assistant coach Ron Adams in practice before Friday’s game at Philadelphia. He was inactive for that game for what the team called internal discipline, and the players told Boylan after Friday’s game they felt one game was not enough.
Boylan said Noah has been involved in "a couple of situations where he’s been late or not doing what the Chicago Bulls do."
"So the cumulative aspect of this is definitely part of the reasoning for the players doing what they did," the coach said.
Noah sat behind the Bulls bench, wearing street clothes.