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Tag:Al Horford
Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 12:32 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hawks-Bulls: Chess match to Thibs

Tom Thibodeau outsmarts Larry Drew (shocker) to help the Bulls take a 3-2 

Posted by Matt Moore





So many coaches shorten their rotations in the playoffs. The thought being "I can only trust the guys I know I can count on. Only the veterans. Only the guys who have played this year." It's painful to the point of absurdity and the downfall of too many coaches. But Tom Thibodeau, sorry, Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau did not get roped into such a tactic in Game 5 against the Hawks.


For most of the playoffs the key bench contributors for the Bulls have been C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, and Kyle Korver. The "Bench Mob" has gotten its fair share of run, but not like they did in Game 5. With Carlos Boozer turning in a very Carlos-Boozer-like performance (11 pts, 12 rebounds, 1700 blown defensive assignments, 1800 yells for plays that were largely the product of his point guard's brilliance),  Thibodeau turned to Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, a sophomore and a rookie, to close the game. The result was a burst of energy and defense which shut down the Hawks and gave the Bulls a 3-2 series lead and an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals in Atlanta Thursday night. 


Gibson's impact was immediate and considerable. He established good position inside, caught, pump-faked and went up-and-under on Josh Smith, gathered a key offensive rebound, and made all five of his field goal attempts. If Gibson was the spark, Asik was the hammer. Asik made key play after key play, bringing the size and defensive strength to knock the Hawks back out of the paint.


It wasn't a bad performance by Noah and Boozer, it was just smart coaching by Tom Thibodeau to let the unit playing well keep playing well.  And it saved what could have been a disastrous performance from the Bulls. It showcases the Bulls' postseason in a nutshell.


The Bulls did not play well for most of the game, and again, a Hawks team that everyone thought would roll over for the top seed in the East put up a great fight, led by Jeff Teague. Derrick Rose, who had a typically brilliant offensive performance, struggled on defense against Jeff Teague who continues to be an emerging story for the Hawks' future.  It's almost as if Rose's All-Defensive Team votes may not have been well considered. But in the end, though less efficient than Teague, Rose outweighed Teague's performance and got the win. The recipe is simple. Give Rose support, any kind of support, from anyone, and the Bulls can win with defense and timely play.


There are so many things that could have led to either team having closed this series out 4-1 in this series were they different. In Game 5, we saw a significant one for both sides: Tom Thibodeau and Larry Drew. 
Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 3:46 am
 

Playoff Fix: Less shots or better shots for Rose

The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks return to Chicago for a pivotal game 5 in a series tied 2-2. Posted by Ben Golliver.
derrick-rose-scape


One Big Thing:  It's been beaten to death, but there isn't a bigger story than Derrick Rose's shot-taking. 27, 27, 27, 32: That's the number of field goal attempts Rose has jacked in the first four games of this series. He's a really nice guy, the best player on the court and being guarded by Jeff Teague, so it's tough to put him on blast. By taking 32 shots in Game 4, he became only the third player in this year's playoffs -- joining Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook -- to fire 30+ times. So we can't even call this the "Kobe Zone" any more. All jokes aside, 12-for-32 from the field is almost guaranteed to result in a loss, and Rose faces the same old choices in Game 5: less shots or better shots. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is advocating for better shots, as he wants Rose to continue to get to the rim and the free throw line. 

The X-Factor: Chicago's bench has been called one of the best in the league and the group contributed 34 points in Game 3. Unfortunately, that production took a nosedive in Game 4, scoring just 14 points on a combined 5-16 shooting. Kyle Korver was a major culprit, shooting 1-8 from the field and going 0-5 from deep after shooting 1-9 in Game 2 as well. In that context, Rose's 32 attempts in Game 4 don't look all that bad. Korver had a bounceback game in Game 3 and the Bulls would love to see another one of those in Game 5. 

The Adjustment: Hawks forward Josh Smith played like a different man in Game 4, tallying 23 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, and finally displaying some of the game-changing athleticism that was being wasted earlier in the series as he stood passively on the perimeter and hucked jumpers. So far during this series, Smith has averaged six boards a game in Chicago and 14.5 boards a game in Atlanta. Whatever the difference was -- whether the Hawks crowd got to him, whether he's twisting an intensity knob to "11" on a 1-10 scale or whether he's chugging a special home-brewed energy drink prior to tip -- Smith needs to make sure that impact carries over to the United Center on Tuesday. Atlanta's other big men have their hands full with Joakim Noah and Smith has shown he can be a difference-maker in this series if he gets loose.

The Sticking Point: If you're still having trouble believing the Hawks are for real, even this deep into the second round, you're not alone. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Jamal Crawford with the perfect summary of their season: "We've shown we can play with anybody, and some nights we can play with nobody." The Hawks aren't the only ones concerned about not showing up, however. The Chicago Tribune notes that Bulls forward Taj Gibson says the Bulls can't solely rely on their homecourt advantage to take Game 5. That both teams are worried about laying a goose egg would be troubling if the concern wasn't legit. The Hawks have rolled over twice and the Bulls got surprised once in the United Center and then came out flat in Game 4. The last 72 hours have seen the tenor of the rest of the playoffs get super duper serious: The Lakers were eliminated, the Heat nabbed a crucial, series-changing win in Boston and the Grizzlies and Thunder battled to three overtimes on Monday night. It's on both the Hawks and the Bulls to prove they can reach those heights. The clock is ticking.
Posted on: May 9, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: May 9, 2011 11:23 am
 

Ref admits blowing call vs. Bulls

Official admits mistake in key call against Bulls in Game 4.
Posted by Matt Moore

Against the Hawks in Game 4, Derrick Rose tried the old "pump-fake and draw" approach on a 3-pointer. The defender was moving when contact was drawn, and refereee Bennett Salvatore blew the whistle. Then, he ruled it an "inadvertent whistle," no foul, and there was a jump ball. Steve Aschburner spoke to Salvatore post-game , and in a rare instance of transparency, a league official admitted his mistake. 

"I was positive it was not a foul. ... Having watched replay, it was a foul."


Well, then, that settles it. The league obviously has a vendetta against the small-market Chicago Bulls. Had that foul been awarded, Rose clearly would have hit all seven free throws necessary for the Bulls to take the lead and held off the Hawks for the remainder of the game. I mean, despite the fact that the Hawks outplayed the Bulls for four quarters, who comes back from from that kind of play?

Oh, wait, it would have only been three free throws when the Bulls were down six, and would have done nothing to change the fact that the Bulls couldn't hit sand if the dropped from the sky into Death Valley. And while momentum definitely would have shifted, let's not forget the way the Hawks responded to every Bulls charge in this game. It was a blown call. They happen. But no one is out to get the Bulls, and especially not the MVP. It was a tough break, but if the Bulls had played offensively with any sense of focus or coherency, they wouldn't care about this call. 

Nothing to see here, folks. Move on. 
Posted on: May 8, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 12:23 am
 

Bulls fail big in crunch time; what happened?

Posted by Royce Young



With 4:31 remaining in Game 4, Derrick Rose made a slick driving layup to knot the game at 84-84. With the terrific Chicago defense and Rose's ability, common sense said to bet on the Bulls for those last four minutes.

But it went wrong for the Bulls. All wrong. Atlanta outscored Chicago 16-4 to close, and not only evened the series 2-2, but revealed some major, glaring scratches in the Chicago armor.

We all spent a lot of time really discussing -- some hammering -- on Russell Westbrook for his play in crunch time for the Thunder in their Game 3. And, while Rose often seems to get a pass because he doesn't have Kevin Durant standing on the wing, let's face facts. Rose attempted 32 shots, made only 12 and really hurt his team down the stretch. I get the differences between him and Westbrook, I really do. He'll get grace for this effort, but I'm not so sure the MVP deserves it.

Let's look at those last four minutes.

4:08, 86-84 Atlanta:
Joakim Noah comes high to set a screen on Jeff Teague and Rose knifes through the hedge, attacking the rim early in the shot clock. He gets there, albeit slightly out of control. It's a shot he's capable of making, though. And that's something you want. You want Rose attacking. But Josh Smith rotates well, challenges Rose high and the ball doesn't catch any iron.

3:45, 88-84 Atlanta: Similar as the last set, with Rose attacking the rim hard. He shoots wildly with 17 on the shot clock as Kyle Korver stands fairly open on the wing. Marv Albert immediately says, "We're seeing a lot of one-on-one from Derrick Rose the last couple of minutes." Now again, it's the ever-present catch-22 of having a player like Rose. You want him taking over, but you also want him to remember he has four other guys on the floor with him.

3:11, 88-84 Atlanta: Chicago regains possession and it looks like the Bulls are about to run another pick-and-roll with Noah and Rose. Rose tries to crossover, and loses the handle. Turnover.

2:33, 90-84 Atlanta: After a timeout by the Bulls, it really appears that the Bulls have a direct set they're going to. Kyle Korver sets a hard screen on Rose's man and there's good action happening. Except Rose stops, pumps and tries to draw contact on Jamal Crawford who had left his feet. It was most likely a foul on Crawford, but ref Bennett Salvatore rules it was an inadvertent whistle and calls a jump ball. The point is, though, it appears Rose ignored the set and improvised. He attempted his shot with 19 on the 24. I can't think that's what Tom Thibodeau drew up.

2:02, 92-84 Atlanta: Panic offense from the Bulls here. Rose dribbles right as Korver rolls to the top of the key. Joakim Noah tries to screen two Hawk defenders at once, but Teague gets through with ease. Korver doesn't care, launching a 28-foot clanker that barely catches front iron.

1:25, 94-84 Atlanta: The Bulls execute their first successful offensive play of the last couple minutes. Rose dribbles to the corner, Luol Deng cuts hard behind Crawford and scores easily at the rim. Pretty play.

1:01, 97-86 Atlanta: One pass to Korver, who throws it away. There's not much else to say about this possession. Just terrible offense and a bad decision.

0:47, 97-86 Atlanta: After a missed dunk in transition by Josh Smith, Rose is able to get into the open court and finish with a layup. And that was it for the Bulls.

In the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose was 6-12 from the floor. The rest of the team was 1-4. Now this has been Chicago all season long. Rose is the scorer, he just happens to play point guard. But recall those great finishes against the Pacers in the opening round. Remember how it was Rose carrying the team and then the last few minutes setting up teammates? Remember the big, open shots from Kyle Korver?

What was most interesting to me about this game was how Carlos Boozer was actually keyed in and playing well. But those last four minutes, he didn't get one touch. Three Bulls actually touched the ball those last four minutes -- Rose, Deng and Korver. Noah and Boozer never had the leather in their hands.

Again, back to the Westbrook debate, the question is, who's at fault? Is this on Rose who is the point guard captaining the offense? On Thibodeau for bad offensive design? Or on the other four Bulls on the court for not doing more to get free from defenders? Much like with the Thunder, I lean towards all of the above.

No, Rose doesn't have Kevin Durant on his team, but ignoring Boozer and the three other guys is inexcusable. I mean, why does everyone act like Rose is playing with four clowns or something? This Bulls team won 62 games because the TEAM is good. He has four other NBA players on the floor with him. A couple of them pretty darn good. No, a gifted scorer like Durant isn't one of them, but let's not act like Rose has the kind of roster around him that gives him free reign to fire from the hip at will.

There's no denying that 32 shots from Rose isn't a winning formula. I'd say he took two bad ones during this sequence and the turnover was careless. But he is the Chicago offense. It's been that way all season. And it's not like he settled. Only nine of his 32 attempts came outside of the paint. He attacked. He just had tunnel vision once he went after the iron. But I don't think you can hammer Rose too hard for shot selection. He just maybe called on himself a bit too much.

We've all agreed the Chicago offense has to be a bit more dynamic and socialistic if the Bulls are going to beat the likes of Miami or Boston. Rose will have to lead the way but 32 shots and only four for his teammates in the entire fourth quarter isn't good. The Hawks are figuring Rose and the Bulls out. Just imagine what the Heat and Celtics will do.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 9:28 pm
 

Tyson Chandler: The man who ended an empire

There were dozens of reasons (that came in 3's) why the Mavericks were better than the Lakers. But the man in the middle gave Dallas the chance to down the champs.
Posted by Matt Moore



  There will be talk of Dirk Nowitzki's excellence. There will be talk of the outright barrage that Jason Terry helped lead, along with Peja Stojakovic and Jason Kidd from the perimeter. There will be time to talk about the Lakers' abject mental and emotional collapse. But we should take a moment and recognize that, while the 3-point bombs may have given the Mavericks the points to overcome the Lakers, it was a man who was cast off years ago who truly brought the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals. 

In the early months of 2010, Mark Cuban recognized the real problem with facing the Lakers. Sure, Kobe Bryant was going to hurt you and Pau Gasol's touch and post moves were going to seem overwhelming. The athletic talent is incredible. But the biggest advantage the Lakers have? Size and length. Pau Gasol, 7-0. Andrew Bynum, 7-0, Lamar Odom, 6-10. That's an absolutely humongous front line, even if only two of them are in the game at the same time. The advantage doesn't just come in first-shots or defending the rim, or offensive rebounds. It's in interrupting passing lanes and tipping in shots from six feet out. You could survive Kobe Bryant's perimeter onslaught. But the Lakers' massive size advantage could not be bested unless you brought in bigger and better players. 

Which is what Cuban did. Cuban first traded for Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler. When that didn't work out, the Mavericks' management team, with Donnie Nelson at the helm, acquired Tyson Chandler. And all of a sudden, the Mavericks' entire identity changed. You had to really watch this year to notice it, and not just get caught up in the "same ol' Mavericks" talk that permeates so much discussion.  The Mavericks were tougher inside, able to counter off the bench with Haywood. Dirk Nowitzki was no longer the tallest or most active defender. 

Against the Lakers. Pau Gasol got a healthy dose of Chandler. While Gasol's failures are a whole other discussion in and of themselves, Chandler's defense both man-up and on help were a huge part of why the Mavericks were able to contain the Lakers defensively. No longer able to overwhelm the Mavericks inside, despite a stellar series from Andrew Bynum (right up until the point he committed one of the most embarrassing flagrant fouls in NBA playoff history), the Lakers just kept chucking 3-pointers. And they were unable to hit anything that even resembled a shot. Seriously, most of us thought many of them were passes. 

The Lakers' problems go deep, and the Mavericks' successes even deeper. But Tyson Chandler not only helped negate the Lakers' biggest advantage, but even landed a few alley-oops. Chandler set the tone and brought the Mavericks a new attitude. It takes a lot of toughness to make the champs into wimps, to turn a dynasty to dust. After so many years as an after-thought, Tyson Chandler is the first line of defense for a team headed to the Conference Finals. 
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. 

Observe: 



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.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com