Tag:2011 Bulls-Hawks. Bulls-Hawks
Posted on: May 8, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: May 8, 2011 11:19 am

Playoff Fix: Atlanta's easy way out

The Hawks don't really have to win Game 4 to be proud of their season, it's all gravy from here, really. But if they want to make this series go longer, they're going to have to make some serious changes. 
Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing:  The Atlanta Hawks aren't really on the hook for Gaem 4. They stole a game in Chicago, made a good effort in Game 2, and then Game 3 really did show that they're just outclassed. The Hawks will continue to face derision from media and fans, but the reality is that they did make progress this year. They won a game in the second round. Granted, based on this pattern of improvement, they're scheduled to win the title in 2088, but still. The Hawks can be blamed for their isolation offense, for their allowance of huge performances from stars, for Josh Smith shooting 3-pointers.  But they can't be blamed for the Bulls being better, which they are. How the Hawks choose to respond in Game 4 will say a lot about them. Again, they can fold, and you shouldn't think any worse of them. The Bulls are a much better team.  But if the Hawks come out and play with fire, once again pushing the top team in the East and forcing this series to go at least some distance, they'll show that at least they're not willing to go quietly. 

The X-Factor: It's tempting to throw any number of Hawks in here: Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, but since we know we can't count on them (Teague is the best bet, can you believe that?), let's go with a Bull: C.J. Watson.  As if Derrick Rose's onslaught wasn't enough, Watson came off the bench in Game 3 with 8 points and got to the line twice in just ten minutes. The Hawks have shown they can survive big performances from stars (Dwight Howard). But if the bench is going to keep up the production, they're must going to drown defensively. 

The Adjustment: Surely, Josh Smith will start to hear the boos and recognize that you can't, you just can't keep taking those long-range jumpers. The boos from his home crowd (which will undeniably be a little less homey in Game 4)! Smith keeps taking those shots, despite the opportunity to take Carlos Boozer off the dribble and how well the Hawks play when he becomes aggressive. At this point, the best bet for the Hawks is classical conditioning using the Hawks crowd as a reward system. Maybe they should set up a bell system to tell him when to drive. Pavlov's Dog doesn't seem like a crazy approach if it gets the job done. Smith has gutted his own offense with his decision making in the playoffs. 

The Sticking Point: Jeff Teague actually played really well. There was just no stopping Derrick Rose, especially with his mid-range jumper falling. If the same is in place in Game 4, the Hawks have no shot. It sounds simple, because it is. If Rose's mid-range jumper is falling, the Hawks are done and might as well not even make the flight to Chicago for Game 5. But if it's not, and they start attacking the basket themselves, Atlanta has an opportunity to get this series further down the road. 
Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 1:08 am

Derrick Rose and the definition of unstoppable

Derrick Rose in Game 3? Unstoppable.
Posted by Matt Moore

This wasn't the Knicks. Golden State's truly disastrous defense wasn't at work here. Sure, the Atlanta Hawks played badly in Game 3, mostly on account of their own penchant for bad offense encouraged by a defensive performance from the Bulls that was reflective of their regular season performance. But the Hawks are not a bad defensive team, and in reality, are only in the semifinals because of that defense. 

But Derrick Rose? The MVP? Derrick Rose was unstoppable Wednesday night.  

It takes a lot to be unstoppable in the NBA. Players can show and recover as far out as halfcourt. Doubles are constant, welcomed, and efficient when executed correctly. And you're talking about players, often with up to ten inches of height advantage and even more length contesting at the rim (though Rose is certainly taller than many guards).  There a way to stop 99% of all NBA players, even the elite ones. 

And even if the Hawks hadn't been a step slow on defense Wednesday, it wouldn't have mattered. Derrick Rose could not, would not be stopped. Take, for example, the floater. 

Rose's floater is right  there. Al Horford and Josh Smith have gone to block it probably a dozen times in this series, and at least four of those came Wednesday night. But his quick release combined with his absurd athleticism means you have to not only get crazy vertical, but you have to time it within a few nanoseconds, otherwise it's up, it's high, it's off glass, and it's in. But the killer for the Hawks Wednesday night was the jumper got going. 


What are you going to do if Rose is hitting 10-18 on jumpers? You can't close on him, he gets to the rim faster than your rotation, and can explode to get airborne from nearly the elbow.  You have to hope he misses. Instead, Rose buried the Hawks with more range shots than layups.  The Hawks clearly weren't expecting it and, with his quick release, there wasn't any way for them to close. Rose's jumper isn't always going to be there. But it's going to be there on nights like Game 3, and when it is, the Bulls, for all their offensive weaknesses (which are numerous), are a juggernaut. 

The Hawks could have played better on offense, with better passing, less dribbling, the same things we always say about them. They could have hit the glass harder, gotten better bench production, got out in transition more. And it probably wouldn't have changed the final result, only the margin of victory. 

When Derrick Rose plays like he did Wednesday night, he's not only the Most Valuable Player. He's unstoppable. 
Posted on: May 6, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:56 pm

Bulls finally show that championship mettle

Posted by Royce Young

Hawks coach Larry Drew saw it just 49 seconds in to Game 3 as he called a timeout. Uh oh, the Bulls are starting to look like themselves finally.

Derrick Rose was spectacular (44 points, seven assists), the Chicago defense was great and the entire Bulls team put together a full 48 minutes of stellar basketball pummeling the Hawks 99-82 to take a 2-1 series lead.

Watching the Bulls this postseason, it was hard to really zero in at any moment where they looked like the dominant 62-win from the regular season. Game 5 against Indiana was the closest thing to it, but then again, that was against an overmatched Pacer squad.

The Bulls did the three things that they're very, very good at: They rebounded, they defended the perimeter and Derrick Rose was great. Add in the secondary players chipping in 34 points off the bench, and it's a recipe to beat pretty much anyone. Atlanta went just 1-6 from 3 and basically was limited to only scoring in the paint. The Hawks took Game 1 on the wings of excellent outside shooting. You could say the Bulls made a proper adjustment there.

Look at the Hawks by shot location and the percentages. They were 11-17 at the rim (only 17 attempts is insane) and 10-18 from 3-9 feet. The Bulls forced Atlanta outside where the Hawks shot just 9-25 from deep 2-pointer range. That's the Tom Thibodeau way. Seal the paint, force long 2s. Joakim Noah was terrific defensively with Luol Deng and the other Chicago wings playing a very good defensive game.

This was a big night for the Bulls. Not just for this series, but to figure out exactly where they stood. Were they really championship material? Were they really the best regular season team? Do they really have what it takes?

The opportunity was there Friday to answer some of those questions. The immediate task at hand was dispatching the Hawks to take a 2-1 series lead and regain homecourt advantage. But the broader mission was to re-discover themselves. To dig up that team that was so, so good the last three months.

I hesitate to announce outright that the Bulls are entirely back but, boy, they looked good on Friday. They were in a funk, no doubt, and Game 3 in Atlanta may have been just right thing to snap them out of it. Against Indiana, there never really was a sense of urgency. After the Hawks took Game 1 in Chicago, though, this Game 3 was the type of swing game that could potentially decide a series. If the Hawks were to win, they would have tightened their grip on the Bulls.

But Chicago showed up. It was mainly because Derrick Rose is awesome, but, also, the Bulls bench finally played like the best bench in basketball again. Finally, the defense was consistently good. Finally, there was a real, palpable energy throughout the game for the team. No, Carlos Boozer wasn't great. No, Deng didn't score the ball well. Those are two things almost everyone agrees needs to happen for the Bulls to truly compete.

And while I would agree with that, the Bulls team that dominated Game 3 is the type of team that can win a title. They found that balance of offense and defense that made them so dangerous during the regular season and, when Rose is scoring efficient like that, you're not going to be able to score enough to beat them.

Chicago intentionally slowed the game down to a crawl of just 82 possessions, executed offensively (120 offensive rating) and basically just drained the Hawks offense. The Bulls turned the Hawks into a painfully average offensive team in every way. Al Horford was non-factor, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford couldn't shake loose and the team shot the ball horribly. Exactly what Thibodeau dreams about.

The Bulls needed this game. They've been needing it for about two weeks now. They needed to play the way they're capable of. They needed to show not us, but themselves, that yes, they're still good. They had yet to play a completely solid Chicago Bulls style game this postseason. They got it Friday night. And, in the meantime, put their foot on the throat of the Hawks.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 12:51 am

Playoff Fix: A big swing coming in ATL

Posted by Royce Young

One Big Thing: Tied 1-1, a Game 3 obviously swings things greatly one way. For the Bulls, a win in Atlanta reclaims homecourt advantage. A loss, and the Hawks take even more control of this series. We all get pretty carried away calling a certain game big because in a seven-game playoff series, they're all big. But something says to me that if Atlanta really wants to seriously challenge in this series, Game 3 is very important.

The Bulls re-established themselves a bit in Game 2, playing stronger defense, rebounding well and getting enough from Derrick Rose. It was an ugly 48 minutes of basketball, but it's the way the Bulls win. Replicate that in Game 3 and the somewhat fragile Hawks may be ready to wilt a bit.

The X-Factor: The Hawks' X-factor all season has been Jamal Crawford. He only had 11 points in Game 2 and the entire Atlanta bench, normally a strength, had 13 total. But my X-factor for Game 3 is Jeff Teague. He played so well in Game 2 and in the first two games of the series he only has one turnover against the Chicago defense. That's huge. He's done well on Rose, handled the offense well and if he can score the ball well once again as Joe Johnson and Al Horford reassert themselves, Atlanta will be right there.

The Adjustment: The Hawks kind of relied on shooting the ball well from outside and that worked in Game 1. Not as much in Game 2. Johnson wasn't able to free himself in the second half and the team struggled to get anything good going from the pick-and-roll. The Bulls properly adjusted to Atlanta's perimeter high pick-and-roll attack, so it's up to Larry Drew and the Hawks to find a way to make things work.

The Sticking Point: If the Bulls are truly going to be a championship level team, it's time to show it. If they're serious about winning something, they've got to show up in Game 3. They've got to handle the Hawks and snuff out any belief Atlanta might truly have right now.

And I don't think it comes easy. This has single possession game written all over it. Who executes? Can Rose regain his form? Or can Joe Johnson show up again. The Bulls need to find more help whether it's with Carlos Boozer or Luol Deng and Game 3 is a fine time to start. Lose this one and things get a bit more iffy. The Bulls are better than the Hawks. Now's a good time to prove it.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:44 pm

Noah wants Bulls fan to back off Boozer

Posted by Royce Young

That wasn't "Booooooooz" or "Boo-urns" they were saying. It was just straight "boo."

Long, loud boos directed at one specific player.

Bulls fans have grown increasingly frustrated with Carlos Boozer has he's been less than terrific in the postseason to go with a somewhat unspectacular regular season. The $80 million man is averaging just 10.3 points per game on 38 percent shooting in seven playoff games thus far.

The result? Not just some scattered booing, but loud, obvious booing when Boozer checks out and in from games. Fellow Bulls big man Joakim Noah told the Daily Herald that he's heard enough of it.

Noah asked fans to “support every one of us,” and it was obvious what he meant. The fans are getting restless with power forward Carlos Boozer…

“I love our fans. We have the best fans in the NBA, no question about it,” Noah said. “But I understand our fans are very demanding and that can be very good and in some aspects that can be bad, as well.

“Carlos is in a situation where he’s hurt and he’s giving us everything he can. I’ve been in the position where I’ve been booed before in the United Center and I know to get to where we want to get to, we need Carlos. We should be supporting him. I don’t understand that.”

Boozer of course has been battling a turf toe/ligament issue the past few games and appears to sort of be gutting it out. But as the Chicago offense continues to look pedestrian and centered entirely around Derrick Rose, Bulls fans don't care about valid excuses. They want results. And right now, the regular season's best team isn't giving them very good ones and a lot feel Boozer is to blame.

They're right in the sense that the Bulls need Boozer playing at a high level in order to challenge for a championship. Chicago had issues with Indiana and it's no sure thing that the Bulls are advancing past the Hawks at this point. A big reason is the output from Chicago's starting power forward. Just 10 points and long disappeances isn't cutting it right now.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:55 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:11 am

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Bulls: Noah makes good

Joakim Noah provides the spark for the Bulls in Game 2. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The Bulls can't win if Derrick Rose plays poorly (he can play "not great" as he did Wednesday night, despite what the point total and narratives will tell you, just not badly). But more prevalent in Game 2 was this: the Bulls can't lose if Joakim Noah plays great. 

19 points on 6-8 shooting, 14 rebounds, 7 offensive, 3 steals and 1 block. That's a great line. And it doesn't even cover how big of an impact he had versus the Hawks. 50 percent of the Bulls' offensive rebounds were snagged by Noah. On a night when the Bulls' offense was only slightly less woeful than the Hawks', those seven extra possessions, full of putbacks and resets, were vital. Basically, if you can't produce efficiency with the possessions provided, create more possessions. 

Most notable was his dominance over Al Horford. Horford is generally regarded as the better player. He's more versatile, has better range, is more efficient and a better passer. But in terms of those key plays which make your team that little bit better than the other in key areas, Noah dragged Horford out behind the shed and taught him a thing or two. Which is odd since they both learned about those things at the same university. If Noah's going to get at those key rebounds at that rate over Horford and Josh Smith, the Bulls will simply grind the Hawks into wood shavings, as they did in Game 2. 

Noah's not particularly versatile, but he had the full array going on Wednesday, including the lefty hook early for the first points for the Bulls. It's that production that puts the Bulls at a level just high enough to overcome an inefficient game from Rose and a terrible game from pretty much every other Bull offensively. Noah struggled in the regular season with injury and the first round with energy. But his biggest performances coincide with the Bulls' strongest wins. The Bulls' win over the Hawks in Game 2 wasn't pretty. It was just very Noah. 
Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 12:58 am

Ugly for ATL in Game 2 but things are pretty good

Posted by Royce Young

At some point during the fourth quarter, I think the Hawks looked up at the scoreboard in the United Center and realized what we were all thinking.

Hey, at least we got a split.

Because Wednesday night's Game 2 was a complete reversal of good shooting fortune for the Hawks. Unless you're a Bulls fan, that was not a fun 48 minutes of basketball. Both teams shot under 40 percent, with the Hawks clocking in at a paltry 33.8 from the field. The Atlanta bench, which is typically a major weapon, went a combined 3-11 for 13 points (11 coming from Jamal Crawford).

The Bulls got back to their style of basketball, grinding out a win behind excellent perimeter defense, stellar rebounding and just enough from Derrick Rose and his rag-tag bunch of scorers. Not that Chicago looked dominant by any means, because there's still certainly some vulnerability there, but it was a more routine Bulls win. It's exactly what the doctor ordered for Game 2 to even the series.

But the Hawks can walk out of the United Center tonight thinking one thing: mission accomplished. Taking one game is a huge coup, and because they won, the Hawks actually have a shot. Like really, they have a chance in this series. I'm not kidding. This series, much like the Memphis-OKC one, has a real look of seven games written all over it.

The question is how to replicate Game 1 and forget Game 2. The Bulls were obviously much better, and suffocated the Atlanta offense while killing on the glass (58-39 edge). Rose was average (10-27, 24 points, eight turnovers), Carlos Boozer was a non-factor once again and the entire team shot the ball horribly. And yet the Bulls won by 13. It's exactly the way Tom Thibodeau draws it up.

Joe Johnson returned to the Joe Johnson we are all familiar with in postseason play (16 points, 7-15 shooting) He forced things, tried to take over in awkward moments and wasn't able to free himself from the terrific on-ball defense of Luol Deng. But because of Johnson's struggles and Al Horford's rough game (3-12, six points), the Hawks watched as unproven second-year point guard Jeff Teague stepped up in a big way.

Teague's effort in the first two games of this series is probably the second best thing the Hawks are taking back with them to Atlanta (a win being the first). Teague went for 21 on 7-14 shooting Wednesday and played 40 minutes against Chicago's pressure defense without a turnover. In these two games filling in for Kirk Hinrich, Teague has just one turnover. In Game 2, he outplayed the guy that was just handed the MVP trophy by David Stern before the game.

That, along with the snatching of homecourt in Game 1, means the Hawks have a chance. I know, I have to keep saying it to almost convince myself. But with the way that Indiana series went for Chicago, and then the stinker in the opening game against the Hawks, it just feels like the Bulls aren't themselves right now. It feels like they're vulnerable. They're better than they're playing, but it doesn't matter right now. The Hawks have the upper-hand in this series.

Atlanta closed in a few different times on Chicago in the fourth quarter but never approached getting over the hump and taking the lead. While a 2-0 lead would basically be more shocking than the contract Joe Johnson got in the offseason, one win in of itself is big.

It's easy to lose sight of things like that, especially when a team plays as unimaginative as the Hawks did Wednesday. But any road team's goal in the opening two games is to take one and therefore, homecourt. The Hawks accomplished that. And may have found a pretty good point guard in the meantime.
Posted on: May 4, 2011 3:06 am
Edited on: May 4, 2011 3:29 am

Playoff Fix: Chicago needs to find itself again

Posted by Royce Young

One Big Thing: So... things didn't go exactly as planned for Chicago in Game 1. The Bulls looked average at best, relying far too heavily on Derrick Rose while just assuming their defense could contain the Hawks. Wrong on both accounts. Atlanta executed down the stretch, while Chicago didn't, and the result is a shocking 1-0 lead for the Hawks.

The question now: Is Rose healthy after re-tweaking his ankle in the final seconds of Game 1? He practiced and, reportedly, there was no swelling. He should be good. But how effective he can be in a game has yet to be seen.

The X-Factor: The Chicago bench has to show a pulse. The Hawks second unit absolutely destroyed the Bulls role players. Granted, it's not really fair when Jamal Crawford is part of the group, but even guys like Jason Collins stepped up big. Chicago got little to none of that from its backups. Someone, whether it's Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer or Taj Gibson, has to show a heartbeat.

The Adjustment: If we're all being honest with ourselves, we saw a Hawks team that knocked down a bunch of outside jumpers. Can they do it again? The Magic asked the same question, and Atlanta answered in buckets. Of course, the Bulls are a better defensive team, so locking down and sealing off the perimeter is probably the focus. Allowing good shooters to get open looks all over the floor is a recipe for failure, and the Hawks made the Bulls pay.

The Sticking Point: The Bulls absolutely can't afford to drop this second game. The Hawks are already guaranteed a split, which is what they went to Chicago hoping for. But, if Atlanta wins Game 2, they've got a firm stranglehold on the series. It will take another steady performance from Jeff Teague and more great shot-making from Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson. Not that the Hawks aren't capable of it, but you can safely assume the Bulls will ratchet things up a bit.

And they better. The Bulls weren't any better than in their series against Indiana, and facing a team like the Hawks, Chicago wasn't ready. Something tells me the Bulls will be prepard tonight, though, and get back in the series.
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