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Bulls still not right, but provide more than enough to stifle Hawks, tie series

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Hawks vs Bulls boxscore Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Atlanta 88.0 83.0 35.7% 23.4 18.5 13.6
Chicago 97.7 42.3% 17.9 32.6 14.8

 

It was a probably-a-good-idea-to (not 'must') win, and the Bulls did that much. Wasn't even that close, as the Hawks never got too close before a late Bulls run made for a fairly blah final few minutes, with the only excitement coming from seeing Rose avoid another ankle sprain as he was fouled on a late jumper. And with the Hawks not having much of a home court advantage (nor a record that would reflect it), the Bulls should still feel pretty comfortable with this series.

Though not as much for what they're doing as much as because of this mantra: it's the Hawks. They take awful shots, Josh Smith was a complete train wreck until midway through the 3rd quarter, I'm still not sure what Marvin Williams does...at all, and they have zero bench play outside of Jamal Crawford.

Starting with some positives, pretty much all centering (pun!) around Joakim Noah. He not only forced Al Horford into his second-straight poor performance, but also led the Bulls with 7 offensive rebounds, a category that they dominated tonight like they did in the season series. Not only the officially-tallied boards, but also 50/50 balls where the Bulls seemingly got every nod over Atlanta. The Hawks also blew several transition opportunities after receiving pressure from a well-retreating Bull. If game one was really about a lack of effort (as Luol Deng implied post-game), then these hustle indicators showed the Bulls were definitely on another level in game two...at least in that department.

Deng and Boozer also contributed to the board dominance, and as a team the Bulls did a fine job defensively on Joe Johnson. They were definitely more eager to double team Iso-Joe in this game, and it was not a comfortable spot for Johnson nor a Hawks squad that doesn't seem to know how to space well. The Hawks did run some nice back-screens to get layups in the first half, but more often than not it was something slow, uncreative, and contested (even moreso than game one)...or just call them Josh Smith'd (or Marvin Williams'd). Again: it's the Hawks.

A solid and much-needed win, bringing back the Bulls tenets of defense and rebounding leading the way. But a cloud still hangs over all of this, and it's the limited effectiveness of their two best offensive players.

Derrick Rose once again had a very poor night in terms of efficiency, 25 points on 27 shots, attempting 8 3-pointers and 6 FTs, and 8 turnovers. But it was his decision-making that was most alarming, seemingly always settling for outside jumpers even when his defender was giving him such a cushion he could've gotten a huge head start. It has to be the ankle, and though Rose denied it post-game ("just missed shots"), he's either lying or he's decided to treat us to a sneak peak of his future post-prime when his athleticism has waned.

And Carlos Boozer is becoming Ben Wallace before our very eyes. Just a complete inability to finish inside on anything remotely difficult. His only makes were from perfect set-ups from a doubled Rose (who, it should be said, did have 10 assists tonight), and on the rare occasion he makes a power move you are just waiting to find out he committed a foul to convert it. Boozer was ultimately benched tonight with four minutes remaining, and the Bulls went on a 6-0 run to effectively seal the game.

And speaking of on/off stats, Kyle Korver was once again a marked positive (+11) over his 2-guard contemporaries, and played under 20 minutes. Korver shot terribly and the Hawks attacked him relentlessly on the other end, but the Bulls offense was once again so much better with him on the court, and again: the only risk is fewer minutes for a banged-up Brewer and fully-Bogans Bogans.

I doubt any changes will be made, as the defense is better when he's off-court, and the Bulls dominated on defense first and foremost tonight. It's how they've won. But if Rose and Boozer keep playing like this, that formula will stop working soon.