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2011 Playoffs Bulls - Hawks Game Five: Rose leads surprise 4th quarter lineup domination (with a D)

Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Atlanta 80.0 103.8 48.6% 19.7 22.9 12.5
118.8 51.4% 29.2 28.6 11.3


It's been a theme (I'm still hesitant to use the word 'meme' that often) all season that Thibs has a bit of a stubborn streak. He's stuck with his starters, his rotations, and his relentless emphasis on defense all season. It's certainly worked for the coach of the year, but does leave him open to some criticism as well.

Despite that reputation, he's also shown an ability at times this year to ride hot lineups, and tonight's 4th quarter provided the most dramatic and important example of that yet. Rose/Brewer/Deng/Gibson/Asik is actually not that uncommon of a combination, per 82Games it's the 8th most-used lineup this season. But considering that (unlike most of the season) Boozer and Noah are healthy now, Kyle Korver has been their most prolific 4th-quarter option outside of Rose, and it's the Playoffs...what a move by Thibodeau to not only start this group up a single point entering the biggest quarter in the series, but to stick with it for nearly the entire period.

The Bulls outscored Atlanta 26-15 in that 4th quarter, led first by their incredible defensive play. Outside of Rose it's a lineup that has the best and most active defensive options on roster. Even when putting Asik over Noah, I'd say that Asik+Taj is better complementary defensive tandem than Noah+Taj, with Asik providing better post defense and taking up space allowing Taj to better hedge around the court. And with Brewer and Deng at the 2-3, they can fairly successfully bottle up Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford.

It of course helps that Atlanta was seemingly eager to go into their 4th quarter simply giving the ball to those wings to isolate and create, when they were able to overcome an early large deficit (the Hawks! I think it's far past time to expect quit out of them now) behind the outstanding play of Jeff Teague. Teague continued a great series performance with 21 points on 11 shots, 7 assists and not a single turnover. When the Hawks went to him usually good things happened (as it did with Josh Smith as well, deciding to play inside for the second straight game), as Teague's play in the open court and ability to hit floaters in the lane (did he hit a single jumper?) made him a poor-man's Derrick Rose.

But in spite of the tough night he had defensively, Rose himself (the adequately-affluent-man's version?) was even better. He started the game making quick and correct decisions when facing double teams, getting Deng and Boozer involved. Again played the whole second-half, and again took it upon himself to take over the game on offense in the final minutes. And because as good as this lineup is, it'll always struggle to score, Rose needed to assume that role.

But unlike game four, Rose was hitting shots at the rim and finding teammates. Taj Gibson was perfect from the field for 11 points in the 4th quarter, both providing spacing with his jumper and the ability to finish in the post. It's always a question with this team as to who can provide scoring besides Rose, and in maybe the most important quarter they've had yet it was Taj stepping up. Alongside him in that department, though throughout the entire game, was Luol Deng, recovering from a poor prior outing with 23 points in nearly 46 minutes. That along with his mentioned job on Joe Johnson in that 4th quarter surge. Keith Bogans had JJ duty also, and was a huge part of the Bulls early lead, with an 8-0 run of his own at one point in the 1st quarter.

Deng was providing offense even in the rare time when Rose was out, much-needed as the bench mob's performance in the 2nd quarter was so disorganized it caused an angry Thibs timeout (as if there's another kind?). Another factor that made his decision to ride a bench-heavy lineup later in the same game so bold. It's seems easy to expect a coach to 'play the hot hand', but in practicality it's incredibly risky* to not go with the safety of your usual best. Seeing Noah, Boozer, and Kyle Korver (only 4 minutes all night and didn't attempt a single shot) sit the entire 4th quarter was startling. Seeing their replacements do what they did was spectacular. And a neat part about this team as I don't think we as fans enjoyed it nearly as much as they did from the bench.

*(and not something I would do, reason a-billion-ish I truly don't know what I'm talking about)