Tag:Tom Thibodeau
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:39 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 11:23 pm
 

Hawks go out with a whimper, but showed something

Posted by Royce Young



In a do-or-die Game 6, the Hawks bowed out rather humbly to the Bulls, 93-73, as Chicago moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls looked strong and their season series with the Heat, so the East should be tremendous.

But let's talk about the Hawks for just a second. A round of applause is in order, because that was quite a postseason effort.

Think back to just the end of the regular season. The Hawks lost their last six games and limped into the playoffs with a meager 44-38 record. Most everyone in the world didn't give them any sort of a shot against Dwight Howard and the Magic. And not only did the Hawks take down Orlando, but they did it convincingly in six games.

And once again, taking on the East's top seed, not many felt the Hawks had a legitimate chance to unseat the Bulls. But Game 1 went the way of the Hawks, and a message was sent quickly: Atlanta ain't messing around here. You may not think much of them, but those Hawks weren't going to lie down and just let things play out the way everyone thought.

It's a pretty important development too for this team because, up to this point, they were sort of the NBA's paradise lost. They were a movement built on talent and youth, but a group that never had tasted real success or really even seemed destined to do so. The Hawks were one big ball of quality basketball players, but lacking whatever it takes to go a bit further.

No, they didn't win a title, much less get to the finals in the East. But they did, at the very least, give a renewed sense of hope around this still young core. All hope isn't lost, the dream isn't dead. At the end of March, it was certainly appearing that was the case. The Hawks had started their annual checkout phase of the season and didn't seem to represent any chance of pushing the Magic, much less getting out of the first round. And, not only did they bounce Orlando, but they also gave the Bulls a pretty solid scare.

Is this a title core? Probably not. They still lack something, even if we all have trouble putting our fingers on it. It's probably the fact that everything they have is very good, but not quite great. Joe Johnson is a very good star, but not The Star. Josh Smith is a very gifted, athletic power forward, but something prevents him from being all that he could be. The one overachiever of the bunch seems to be Al Horford and, while very, very good, I don't think he's the type of reliable big man that can shoulder a load and win a playoff series on his own.

So, like I said, it's just not all put together for the Hawks. And it might not ever be. There's a case to be made that this playoff run could've done more harm than good because now management may invest even more in this core. But that's the question: Did they prove something here? Was this enough to say they still deserve a chance? I think that's what we've all got to ask about this Hawks team.

There are some decisions to be made in the offseason. What do you do with Jamal Crawford? Do you still hang on to Josh Smith or do you dangle him on the trade market and see what you can get? Is Jeff Teague going to be your point guard of the future now? What do you do with Marvin Williams? And what else can you add to try and take the next step? The Hawks have to fix things, but at least there is now a level of success to reach for. This group was capable of a solid six-game out against the Bulls in the second round. Now what do you do next to take another step?

I'm a firm believer of reasonable expectations and always keeping them in check. Think back to before the season where you had the Hawks pegged. Think back to the beginning of the postseason where you had the Hawks pegged. Now look at where they've finished. It's moderate progress. Not the overwhelming jump towards a title, but it's something.

Until this point, there hadn't been much of a taste. The Hawks appeared destined to be playoff also-ran and that was it. At least in this run, they showed that they could still be something more.
Posted on: May 12, 2011 9:40 am
 

Playoff Fix: Hawks try to keep the window ajar

Bulls look to close out the Hawks in Game 6.

Posted by Matt Moore





One Big Thing: If the Hawks want to stave off elimination and force a Game 7, Jamal Crawford is going to have to get loose. The Hawks' offense is about 25% ISO against the Bulls, and it's pretty high normally. The Hawks just love the feel of a crossover, step-back jumper. But in an elimination game, the Hawks can't afford to squander possessions. Every possession has to be valued, cherished. And that means getting Crawford involved, and it should be off-ball movement that does that. Getting Crawford open looks will cause the Bulls' defense to shift. That'll open up the inside for Horford and Smith, which will create more spacing for Joe Johnson when he goes into isolation, instead of dribbling into multiple defenders. Everything opens up. But it's got to start with Crawford. The Bulls have done a great job of keying in on Crawford as this series has gone on. If they contain him for one more game, it may be enough to make their way to meet the Heat.


The X-Factor: The Bench Mob for Chicago mixed with the starters at the end of Game 5, and they were the difference. The Bulls, surprisingly, have a very capable bench unit, and it's been doing damage in this series. If Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver can make an impact, the Hawks won't be able to counter, not with Teague having to start. It's a huge advantage for the Bulls. Can they keep up this kind of surprising play? With the defense anchoring them, it looks good for the Bench Mob to make an appearance in Game 6.


The Adjustment: The Hawks were making a comeback by putting the ball in Jeff Teague's hands. They stopped doing that. They stopped making a comeback. Teague needs to be the focal point of the offense with how he's playing right now. He doesn't have to take all the shots, but his drive and kick abilities force the Bulls' defense to react instead of just waiting for the Hawks to dribble into them. The Hawks need to trust the young point guard and let him get them opportunities. Trying to do it on their own won't fly.


The Sticking Point: Chicago is a much better team. It honestly should not have gone this many games, given how talented and capable Chicago is. It took a run from Omer Asik and Taj Gibson to close out Game 5 at home, for crying out loud. Credit the Hawks' effort. Had the coaching been better, this may have gone differently. But this is a close-out game the Bulls know they need with the Heat starting to get their rest. Derrick Rose will be in close-out mode. The Hawks have shown us a tougher version of themselves mentally than we're used to seeing this postseason. They're going to have to come out with an even more impressive to push this thing back to Chicago and give themselves another chance.  
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. 
 
 
 
 
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