Game 1 Stats:
Luol Deng: 21 points (8-12), 6 rebounds
Joe Johnson: 34 points (12-18), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Jamal Crawford: 22 points (8-16) off the bench
Maybe we’re waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. Maybe the Bulls maxed out their potential in the regular season. Chicago played harder than almost every team they faced during the regular season, but in the playoffs the intensity steps up. Perhaps the Bulls don’t have another level to raise their game to.
Chicago shot 41.5 percent in the Indy series. They shot 45.1 percent in the regular season against the Pacers. The Pacers stepped up their game; while the Bulls let theirs slip a little.
And on Monday night Chicago allowed Atlanta to score 103 points. The Bulls held Atlanta to 80 points per game in their three regular season match-ups. Even the game in which Atlanta won on March 2, the Hawks only scored 83 points. Isn’t the Bulls defense supposed to lock down in the playoffs, especially with Atlanta missing their point guard? After all Jeff Teague, the replacement guard, played only nine minutes in all of Atlanta’s round one series against the Magic (He played 45 minutes on Monday night).
Atlanta shot 51.3 percent from the field and 53.8 percent from behind the arc. Those numbers are too high for any team, and way too high for the league’s best defense and a team that defines itself by stopping opponents. During the regular season, Atlanta shot 46.9 percent against Chicago. Maybe the strategy of “wait for Atlanta’s shots to stop falling; they definitely won’t hit shots like this all series” is a bit off. Didn’t some Orlando fans say that as well (only Howard showed up in that series for the Magic, but the Hawks played well throughout the series)? The Hawks were hot, that was obvious, but Chicago should have been able to do something more on defense.
Thibodeau will surely have some changes to the defensive game plan, but defense is only part of the problem.
After Rose got to the line at will in the first round (12 times per game), he failed to get there at all in game one of the Hawks series. Rose reached the free throw line seven times per game against Atlanta during the regular season. His shot has not been falling (especially from behind the arc) during these playoffs, which makes it more important he get to the charity stripe for easy buckets. 10.4 of Roses 27.6 points in round one came from the line.
Maybe this is too pessimistic, and the Bulls will wake up again as they have after previous losses this season. They hadn’t played for almost a week, so perhaps they were a bit rusty. But how many times do they have to be shaken from their basketball slumber. This team never seemed like one that wouldn’t rise to a challenge, but they were outplayed by Indiana in four of the five games (except in the fourth quarters) and were outplayed by Atlanta in game one.
The Bulls can’t expect to win if they aren’t doing what helped them win all season. Chicago can’t keep coming from behind in the fourth quarter; it won’t work against the Hawks. The Pacers didn’t have closers, and that let the Bulls creep back into the game. The Hawks can score in the clutch. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson proved that in game one.
The Bulls bench was huge throughout the season, but last night they Crawford matched the Bulls bench scoring all by his lonesome. The Bulls bench scored 22 points in 63 minutes. Crawford scored 22 points in 35 minutes. Crawford was 8-16 from the field, while the Bench Mob was 8-22.
No one likes the “overreacts-to-one-playoff-game-guy,” but this is really a reaction to five out of six playoff games the Bulls have played. Chicago being the sleeping giant is great, if they actually wake up for each game after a loss. But right now they’re only giving their opponents more confidence. And it’s not good to give a team like the Hawks, who are so hot and cold, more confidence.
Thibodeau lost the game in which he received his Coach of the Year award. You can bet Derrick Rose will come out strong trying to prove he is worthy of the MVP award he will be presented with tonight. Hopefully he isn’t trying to prove his worth through more three-pointers though.
About the Author:
Braedan Ritter was born and raised in Pennsylvania but was swayed by gifts from his aunt to follow the Chicago sports teams. It didn’t hurt that the Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan playing for them, and the Sixers had…Derrick Coleman. Braedan has stuck with Chicago through thick and thin, and really thin (see: Chicago Cubs). And speaking of Coleman, Braedan is currently a student at Syracuse University.