Tag:Joe Johnson
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 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 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.
 
 
 
 
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