Tag: Chicago Atlanta

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

Video: Hawks Josh Smith with best ally-oop of playoffs


This was the one Hawks highlight from Thursday night.

There wasn’t much to smile about in Atlanta as the Hawks were thumped and knocked out of the playoffs by the Bulls. But there was one highlight in the Highlight Factory.

Josh Smith can just flat out get up there. Enjoy. And when you think of the Hawks, think of this play and not the rest of the game.

NBA Playoffs: Bulls bounce Hawks, will need more from Boozer vs. Heat

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six
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Chicago’s Game 6 dominance was in no way a surprise. Though Atlanta has played effective basketball at various points during this series, games like this one fall in line with the initial assessments of the Bulls’ superiority.

The Hawks exceeded most projections of their playoff performance, but their postseason success didn’t change the fact that the Bulls were, and are still, the better team. Their defense is more reliable. Their offensive execution is more consistent, even if the end product is flawed. They had the best players in this series on both sides of the floor, the better bench, and the superior coach. The Bulls were going to win this series because, ultimately, they’re the Bulls. Call that oversimplified analysis if you will, but being the considerably superior outfit is typically enough to win a playoff series, even if Atlanta figured things out for a game or two and a half.

The Bulls we saw on Thursday night were the fully functioning model, geared to bother the hell out of the opponent’s offense and skilled in doing so. Atlanta posted an effective field-goal percentage of just 37.2 percent, a commendable mark even against an opponent known for their troublesome tendency to settle for contested jump shots. It’s common NBA rhetoric to say that an offense “got whatever looks it wanted,” but in this case, Chicago’s defense consistently forced Atlanta into whatever looks that it wanted. Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah dictated the outcome of this game with their ball pressure, and the Hawks’ 14.2 turnover rate only stands as further evidence of the Bulls’ ability to cause trouble on D.

Offensively, Chicago had it easy. That tends to be the case when Carlos Boozer is working to find open space and — even more importantly — actually hitting a shot or two. Boozer hasn’t had the most impressive playoff run thus far, but he’s absolutely essential to Chicago’s success going forward. Atlanta and Indiana put up a fight, but neither is even close to Miami in terms of two-way efficacy.

The Heat defense is going to test the Bulls’ offense in ways it hasn’t even seen this postseason, and Boozer will have to keep working and finishing if the Eastern Conference finals are to be anything other than the end of the line for the Bulls. It’s odd that Chicago’s second-best offensive player has become something of an X-factor in these playoffs (an impact player with the potential to come and go, but hardly stable), but that inconsistency has historically been a part of Boozer’s postseason game. Deng, Noah, and the Bulls reserves may be able to compensate for Boozer’s lack of production on his less effective nights, but performances of this ilk are what the Bulls will need almost every night out against the Heat.

Jeff Teague did an incredible job of taking over the point guard responsibilities for the Hawks on a moment’s notice, and in spite of the fact that coach Larry Drew had consistently chosen to keep Teague on the bench over the course of the regular season. His success came on a borrowed opportunity, but Teague’s scoring was brilliant and his playmaking promising. Atlanta doesn’t have much hope for internal improvement, but Teague does provide a lone bit of hope.

I won’t miss these Hawks, and you shouldn’t either. There won’t be some summer night where we collectively long for a Joe Johnson iso or a Josh Smith ill-advised 3-point attempt. This team was confounding and irritating, and it’s never pleasant to see skilled players conquered so often by their own vices.

We should all miss the Hawks of Games 1 and 4 though, that brilliantly talented and athletic club that would show up from time to time. They’re capable of running a prolific offense and a versatile defense, and harness the power of an interesting, dynamic group — from Johnson to Teague to Smith to Horford — in concert rather than as a solo performance from a self-ordained virtuoso.

Either way, we bid farewell to both the good Hawks and bad, and greet what’s sure to be a phenomenal Eastern Conference finals series with open arms.

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

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

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.