CHICAGO -- This is not a recording. Your computer is not broken. You're reading the same story, yes, but not because of a malfunction on your end. The malfunction is between the Atlanta Hawks' ears, although to be fair there was more going on Tuesday night in the Chicago Bulls' 95-83 victory than the Hawks' typical lack of basketball IQ.
There was also a whole lot of Derrick Rose going on.
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So I repeat: This is not a recording. Your computer is not broken. You're reading the same story, yes, but not because of a virus on your end. The virus is the defense-eating game of Derrick Rose, because he did it again. He ate up the Hawks' defense.
And when you combine both common themes of this Eastern Conference semifinal series -- the irrationality of the Hawks, the irrepressibility of Rose -- you get what happened in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, when a magnificently played, competitive game became a Bulls wipeout.
Because in the fourth quarter, the Hawks played that dumb.
And Rose played that well.
Heard it before? So has Hawks coach Larry Drew, who lamented before the game that he had no idea which Hawks team would show up for Game 5. The invigorating, confident bunch that won Games 1 and 4? Or the foolish, flat team that lost Games 2 and 3?
Both, it turns out. After falling behind 32-17 in the first quarter, the good Hawks showed up in the second quarter and hung around through the third. But then the goofball Hawks, the unlovable losers, showed up for the fourth quarter.
"We were in great position, I thought, down one [69-68] at the end of the third quarter," Drew said. "When we got to the fourth quarter we had some bad offensive possessions, we were not executing and that led to bad shots which in turn led to baskets for them at the other end. ... It's nothing new. We talk about it every single game. That's one of the key points we make before we send the guys onto the floor: We want to have good shot selection."
The worst shots were taken by the guys who usually take them. (You know the drill: This is not a recording. Your computer is not ... etc.) Joe Johnson started the ugly parade moments into the final quarter, hoisting a 26-footer early in the shot clock. Jamal Crawford followed with a contested 25-footer. Josh Smith left the lane to jack up set shots. None fell.
On the other end of the floor, Derrick Rose was being the best player in basketball. The 2011 MVP hasn't always been that in this series, though the stats might suggest otherwise. Rose entered Game 5 averaging 31.8 points and 9.3 assists, but those numbers are skewed by his 113 field-goal attempts -- just about more than any three teammates -- and undercut by his four turnovers per game.
But in Game 5 Rose played as well as his numbers would suggest. He had 33 points and nine assists. He needed only 24 shots from the field -- making 11 -- and turned it over just twice. And in the fourth quarter he was at his best, with 11 points and three assists. That included a spurt to start the quarter, when a 70-69 deficit became an 85-76 Bulls lead, where Rose scored or assisted on 14 of the Bulls' first 16 points. That was on the Chicago offensive end.
What was happening at the other end? Joe Johnson was happening. Jamal Crawford. Josh Smith.
Nonsense was happening.
"We completely lose our composure," Drew said.
Weird thing was, the best Atlanta player -- the most disciplined, most mature, most composed -- was its most inexperienced player. Second-year guard Jeff Teague continued to be a revelation as he started his fifth consecutive game for injured Kirk Hinrich, playing his best game to date with 21 points (8 of 11 shooting), seven assists and no turnovers.
When the Hawks rallied back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, they did it behind a series of ludicrous shots from Teague. Most of them came in the lane, and they were flipped or floated or, in one instance, squirted like a bar of soap over whatever Bulls big man challenged him.
"He's a good player," Rose said, smiling. "He was in my class in high school, so I know his game. He is a great shooter, driver, finisher."
With a little more help from his teammates -- other than Al Horford, who sank a bevy of mid-range jumpers during his 12-and-10 performance -- Teague just might have led the Hawks past the brilliance of Rose, the consistency of Luol Deng (23 points), the customary spark of Taj Gibson (11 points) and the unexpected perimeter shooting of Keith Bogans (11 points, 3-of-5 shooting on 3-pointers).
Instead, with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Teague was powerless to stop his most experienced teammates from regurgitating the same tired shot selection that has plagued the Hawks in their worst performances of the postseason. Johnson, Crawford and Smith combined for 10 of the Hawks' 15 shots in the fourth quarter, making just two, most of the shots poorly chosen.
Your computer is not broken, I swear.
But there is something wrong with the Atlanta Hawks.