Tag: Atlanta Chicago

Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose drives to the net on Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith during Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game in Chicago

NBA Playoffs: Bulls have questions to answer to avoid Game 7


For a Bulls team one win away from going to the conference finals, there seems to be a lot of questions.

Not about their defense — we know they can lock it down on that end. But about their ability to score on a good defense. About how far Derrick Rose can carry their offense on his back. The Bulls on paper should have steamrolled Indiana and now Atlanta, yet they have been pushed in both series. Are the Bulls as good as we thought?

They can go a ways toward answering that question with a win over Atlanta on the road Thursday night — a closeout game that will be the Bulls toughest test this season.

The Hawks can make this a lot tougher by just trusting in point guard Jeff Teague — he led their comeback in Game 5 in Chicago, only to have the ball taken out of his hands by the Hawks veterans late. And that didn’t end well. The Hawks cannot settle for isolation jumpers, they need the penetration and shot creation Teague brings.

I remember at Summer League a Hawks assistant coach telling me they were begging Teague to be more aggressive, to be the guy he finally has become in this series. Now that they have that Teague, they need to trust him.

Teague is not alone, Jamal Crawford needs to create the offense for the Hawks. Together they create for themselves and others, and the whole offense flows better. The passing version of Josh Smith, the one that also attacks the rim also needs to show up.

For the Bulls, they won the last game with their bench — at the end it was Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in while Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah sat. It really doesn’t matter what the combo of that group is, the Bulls need to get production from someone other than Rose. You know Rose gets the gravity of the situation tonight and look for him to try to do more, to start out hot, but the Hawks will make someone else beat them. Luol Deng, Boozer, Gibson, Kyle Korver — some one needs to step up.

The Bulls should win this game. They should answer the questions. But the Bulls have been a long way from what they should do in these playoffs, so the questions still hang in the air.

NBA Playoffs: It wasn’t just Rose, Chicago has a bench

Chicago Bulls' Taj Gibson celebrates after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks during Game 5 of their NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game in Chicago

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Carlos Boozer was sitting on the bench. Joakim Noah was right next to him. Keith Bogans was right there with them.

Taj Gibson was in, with Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer.

And they were key to the 95-83 win that leaves the Bulls just one game shy of the conference finals.

When the usual Bulls substitutions came late in the third, the game was still very close. At the start of the fourth a Jeff Teague driving layup had the Hawks up one and all sorts of questions running through the United Center.

Then Derrick Rose made his own driving layup. Luol Deng drained a three (from Rose’s assist). Then Gibson started his big fourth quarter with an and-1 with the assist from Rose. Pretty soon (after another Rose layup) the Bulls were up 8 and in control.

That’s when Bulls Tom Thibodeau made the coaching ove of the series — he stuck with the hot hand. The starts sat and the bench stayed on the floor.

“I thought the bench was great, and they got it going pretty good so we stayed with them,” Thibodeau said after the game. “Derrick and Luol played well with that group.”

Gibson had 11 points in the quarter, Asik had three rebounds, set massive picks and was a big body in the paint that frustrated the Hawks, Brewer brought energy at both ends. The Bulls should have struggled with a lineup where Deng was the best outside shooter, but instead they attacked and got their shots at the rim in the fourth. Atlanta struggled against the defense — well, except for Teague — and settled for jump shots.

When the Hawks would try to make a run, the Bulls answered. Again and again. They made another late 8-0 run and salted it away.

In the end the Bulls bench — and Thibodeau’s willingness to ride that bench in the biggest game of the season so far — was the difference. And the bench will have the Bulls on to the next round with another performance like that.

NBA Playoffs: Bulls and Hawks gettin’ serious now

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Four

No secrets, no surprise adjustments at this point. We know how Game 5 in Chicago Tuesday night is going to go down. Kind of.

Derrick Rose is going to take at least 27 shots (he has taken at least that many in every game this series) despite the Hawks trapping him and doing everything they can to get the ball out of his hands and contest those looks. If he converts at even a solid percentage, the Bulls will thrive.

The Bulls will defend fiercely. The Hawks will either still attack, have players cutting off the ball and make passes leading to efficient points in the paint, or they will settle for jumpers and isolation that plays into the Bulls hands.

The game will be low scoring, but in the end one team will do a better job establishing its offensive will, of executing, and they will be up 3-2 in this series.

The Hawks have found some plays that work — the one that got Al Horford a wide-open dunk in the lane late in the Hawks Game 4 win was no accident. The Hawks have run that a few times, exposing Joakim Noah hedging out too far on a pin-down screen, as Sebastian Pruiti showed at NBA playbook. The Hawks, when they move off the ball and pass like this are an offensive force even the Bulls cannot stop. The problem is that when faced with the Bulls pressure they are not consistent.

The Bulls have had success when they get points from their bench — Kyle Korver had a fantastic Game 3, then couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat in Game 4. Role players tend to play better at home, the Bulls are going to need that. They need a lot of Luol Deng.

The Hawks will need another big game out of Josh Smith. That means him attacking the rim, making good passes. The fact is when Jason Collins is in, moving Al Horford to the four and Smith to the three, their offense ran much better. The matchups were a challenge for Chicago. Look for more o that in Game 5.

This series is hard to predict because both teams have played fantastic basketball and just laid an egg the next game. You’d like to think with all that is on the line in Game 5 both will really bring it. I’d also like to think cheeseburgers aren’t fattening. Who knows what we will see.

But it’s going to be interesting. And hopefully intense.