CHICAGO -- Chicago has the NBA's Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodeau. He was presented his award in a pregame ceremony Monday night. Real defensive guru, that guy. Chicago also has the NBA's presumed MVP, point guard Derrick Rose. He'll get his trophy soon enough.
Best coach. Best player. Maybe we'll see it in Game 2.
Damn sure didn't see it in Game 1.
What we saw instead was Thibodeau being unable to stop Atlanta's one-on-one offense. He couldn't get the right matchups or motivate his players or whatever it is that passes for great coaching in the NBA these days. As for Rose, what we saw from him in Game 1 were occasional moments of individual brilliance watered down by moments of frenzied freak-outs.
What we saw was another upset victory, if that's what we're going to call this, by the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. After eliminating fourth-seeded Orlando in the first round, the Hawks eliminated Chicago's home-court advantage in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday, dominating the Bulls for most of 48 minutes before settling on a final score of 103-95.
"Atlanta's playing at a very high level right now," Thibodeau said. "I thought they played great against Orlando. They have an edge about them, and we have to be ready for that."
The Bulls weren't ready Monday night. Three minutes into the game, they trailed 9-0.
|Hawks-Bulls: Game 1|
"No intensity," Thibodeau said.
"That's a great question," he said.
Here's another one: Why was Rose, who suffered a sprained ankle in the previous round against Indiana, still on the court for the final seconds of this lost cause? Seems silly in hindsight, maybe even neglectful, considering Rose twisted his ankle before the final horn, causing Thibodeau to admit afterward, "Of course I'm concerned."
Even if Rose is fine -- and Rose said he was OK after the game -- Thibodeau has much to be concerned about, starting with the way Atlanta's one-dimensional offensive leaders used that one dimension to bludgeon what had been the NBA's best defense. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are scorers, nothing more or less. They don't create for other players. They don't make their teammates better. What they do is shoot the ball, and on Monday they shot at a high level.
Johnson scored 34 points on just 18 field-goal attempts, going 5-of-5 on 3-pointers. Crawford wasn't as efficient as Johnson, but he was efficient enough to score 22 points on 16 shots.
Compare that to Rose, who needed 27 shots to score 24 points. Rose's efficiency was hurt on two fronts. One, he made just 11 of those 27 shots. Two, he never got to the foul line. After ranking 11th in the league with 555 foul shots in the regular season, and after trying 60 free throws in five games against the Pacers -- 21 in the first game alone -- Rose was held without a free throw for just the fourth time in 87 total games this season.
Rose added 10 assists to his 24 points, and like I said, there were moments of individual brilliance. But look at that stat line. Twenty-seven shots? Really? Rose's Game 1 can be summed up by one play, in the fourth quarter, when he attacked the rim before dumping the ball to Joakim Noah. Or trying to dump the ball to Noah. After watching Rose jack up shots for three quarters, Noah was headed to the rim to rebound when the pass sailed past his head and out of bounds.
Rose was more concerned afterward with his team's defense than with his own offense, noting that the Bulls didn't talk as much as usual, didn't attack as much as usual, didn't do anything as much as usual.
"I don't really know why," Rose said. "We've got to look at the film and go over some things and try to be sharp."
Given that Atlanta was without its point guard and best perimeter defender, Kirk Hinrich (hamstring) -- replacing him with Jeff Teague, who played exactly nine minutes in the first round against Orlando -- the Bulls had no excuse for being so dull. And to his credit, Thibodeau didn't try to say otherwise. He threw his players under the bus throughout his postgame media briefing, noting his team's "low-energy offense" and low-intensity defense and refusing to even acknowledge that maybe there was something wrong schematically. He said the first two things that needed to be addressed were execution and effort.
Maybe eventually Thibodeau will look into the X's and O's of Monday night, and ask himself why Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were allowed to work one-on-one all night when they were so obviously determined to shoot -- and their shots were falling. Crawford is one of the most notoriously pass-averse players in the NBA, while even Hawks coach Larry Drew noted that Johnson "at times reverted back to too much isolation."
Translation Joe Johnson was in no mood to pass the ball Monday night. But the Bulls did nothing to get the ball out of his hands. They let him shoot, and they let Crawford shoot, and after three quarters it seemed obvious it wasn't working. Obvious to me, anyway, but what do I know? Nobody gave me a coaching trophy before the game.
As for Rose, somebody asked him if this game was a wake-up call.
"I hope so," the presumed MVP said. "I just hope we don't wake up too late."