Game 1 Recap: Hawks 103, Bulls 95

sad bulls

A few Bulls fans got irritated with me for something I wrote in a recent ESPN 5-on-5. One fan even suggested I shouldn’t even be covering the Bulls after what I wrote.

The question:

“On a scale from 0 to 100, what are the Hawks’ chances?”

My partial answer:

“My gut says 50 because the Hawks are such a 50-50 team: with so much potential but so enigmatic.”

This answer wasn’t inspired by a lack of faith in the Bulls. It was an acknowledgement that, while flawed, this particular Hawks team can beat any given team on any given night. Atlanta is an outside shooting team that, if hot, can be very dangerous.

Well, they were hot last night, and they stole homecourt advantage from the Bulls.

Joe Johnson left third degree burns all over anybody who dared guard him. Johnson finished with 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting, going 5-for-5 from downtown and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Former Bull Jamal Crawford added 22 points on 8-for-16 from the field, 2-for-4 from beyond he arc and 4-for-4 from the foul line.

As a team, the Hawks went 14-for-21 at the rim (66 percent). They went 7-for-13 from three-point range (54 percent) and converted 26 of their 57 jumpers overall (46 percent). Atlanta finished with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 55.8 percent and an Offensive Efficiency of 115.7.

Against the league’s best defensive team.

Outside of the defense, Chicago’s most significant advantage as a team — offensive rebounding — was negated as the teams finished almost dead even in Offensive Rebound Percentage and second-chance points: Bulls 25.6 percent and 12, Hawks 25.0 percent and 11.

And, despite the presence of Derrick Rose, Atlanta finished with a higher Free Throw Rate (25.6) than Chicago (19.3).

Or maybe I should say because of Rose. You may want to steady yourself before reading Derrick’s shooting line: 11-for-27 from the field, 2-for-7 from downtown, 0-for-0 from the free throw line. He began the game 0-for-7.

Rose — who, according to a source, will be named MVP today — had an otherwise strong game (24 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot). But any worries about the health of the ankle he sprained against the Pacers in round one were totally justified. Derrick couldn’t explode into defenders to draw the contact necessary to earn a whistle. And, to make matters worse, he further tweaked the ankle stepping on Crawford’s foot with only six seconds left and the game already decided.

Way too many jumpers. Not nearly enough drives.

Said Rose: “I don’t know why I didn’t keep attacking the basket.”

It could have been, and probably was, the ankle. Of course, Atlanta had a nice game plan, too. They — as so many teams before them — clogged the paint and dared the Bulls to make outside shots. Chicago was decent from beyond the arc (8-for-18) but went a miserable 4-for-18 (22.3 percent) from 16-23 feet. Almost as bad was the fact that the Bulls missed 15 of their 30 attempts at the rim. Rose missed five of his nine bunnies.

Still, this wasn’t a failure by Rose or the offense, not really. The Bulls came up critically short in the intensity category, especially on defense. During the regular season, this team challenged every single shot. Last night, the Hawks got pretty much any shot they wanted. During the regular season, Chicago’s defense got stronger as the game went along. Last night, Atlanta scored 31 points in the fourth quarter.

Said Bulls coach and NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau: “The intensity wasn’t right. The start of the game was poor in terms of ball direction, in terms of challenging shots, in terms of showing help. There wasn’t one aspect of the defense that was good. They’re too good of a team to play like that.”

It was a stunning performance. Or non-performance, depending on your outlook. In the opening round, the Bulls were clearly caught off guard by the intensity and tenacity displayed by the Pacers. Through the first four games anyway. By Game 5, though, the team was finally ready for it. The players had taken it…now they were ready to dish it out. Which, I thought at the time, seemed like a pretty good sign for round two.

Apparently, I was way off in that assessment. In the first quarter, the Bulls played far too relaxed, like they were waiting for the game to come to them. Meanwhile, the Hawks were trying to take the game by the throat. They began the game with a 9-0 run and led 28-18 after 12 minutes.

In the fourth quarter, when Atlanta built a solid (but not insurmountable) lead, players started hanging their heads and looking beaten.

Okay, maybe it was more frustration than defeat, but it sure wasn’t the “never say die” team that won 62 games during the regular season. And the fact that Rose couldn’t dominate the action late in the game seemed to take the wind out of his teammates sails.

Said Joakim Noah: “It’s tough when your best player is limping off the court with an injury that you know he’s had before. It’s tough, but right now, we have a game on Wednesday in less than 48 hours.”

That’s right, Jo, you guys do have a game in less than 48 hours. And you need to get your stuff together. Of course, I have to keep reminding myself that this is a young team that hasn’t been tested in the playoffs yet. No amount of film study or preparation in practice can substitute for experience. The Hawks aren’t as good as the Bulls…but they’ve been through this together. The Bulls haven’t.

Hopefully, the Bulls understand what’s going on and — more importantly — what’s at stake. The Atlanta players aren’t going to roll over and die because Chicago is a better team on paper. The Magic learned that lesson and will spend the summer fixating on it. The biggest adjustment the Bulls have to make is in their hearts. And they’d better do it fast if they want to avoid Orlando’s fate.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

18 Responses to Game 1 Recap: Hawks 103, Bulls 95

  1. hellajax@gmail.com'
    BULL4EVER May 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Oh yes Chicago does have less experience than Atlanta so that can play a slight role in Atlanta’s favor, and I’m not at all concerned about our opening round 2 loss, especially since it’s just 1 game, but I’m slightly concerned about D’Rose’s health status and he needs to play out this entire series if Chicago has a shot at beating Atlanta 4 times in this round 2 series after losing the first game.GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. hellajax@gmail.com'
    BULL4EVER May 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    This Chicago team is a totally serious title-contender, but they still have plenty to learn on how to win in the postseason like they once did in the 90′s.

  3. bodybagsteven@gmail.com'
    BFD May 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    Its sad because Boozer actually started to play better last night to go along with Deng’s good game to boot. Joe Johnson killed us last night too and I’m not quite ready to lay all of the blame at our defense’s feet. Maybe we didn’t contend every shot, but there were more than enough times he would just throw one up there with a guy in his face and the clock expiring and get nothing but net. Crawford would be fading away with Bogans hand a half an inch from his face the entire time and bank it in off the glass.

    Those guys were just as hot as the Pacers were in game one, and they rightfully won this game more than we lost this game if you catch my drift…that’s the reason they play 7 games in the pro’s and cinderella teams get as far as they do in the NCAA tournament. Stuff happens and the weaker team can win a game here or there. Just have to come back tomorrow and take care of business.

  4. Adam@Adam.com'
    Adam May 3, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    WOW: “The LAST time the Hawks won a 2nd round playoff game was in 1997, when they beat a 1st seeded Bulls team… In the United Center…by a score of 103-95.” Talk about history repeating itself.

  5. pjreiman@gmail.com'
    Paul May 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    It wasn’t a good game for the Bulls… but you are going to lose to most teams when they shoot that well. They have to regress to the mean here. Miss a few of those 3′s and it’s a different ball game.

    The bigger question is Rose’s ankle. This is why you take your star out off the game when you’re down 10 with 20 seconds left. Too much risk with no upside. Let’s just hope he’s OK and gets angry for the next few games. If so, this can still be a series victory in 5 or 6 games.

  6. jake_vick@hotmail.com'
    Jake in Minnie May 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    At first I thought it would suck that I was on a train back to Minneapolis and would miss the Bulls game….

    Anyways, color me not worried.

    Also, random shout out to Roenik Patel (another By the Horns reader) who I ran into on the Train From Champaign to Chicago yesterday.

  7. uber.snotling@gmail.com'
    uber_snotling May 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    I didn’t see the game, but how is it possible that Kyle Korver has a +17 +/- number and didn’t get more time on the court than 16 minutes? Nobody else on the team had a positive +/-, Brewer is -15, and Bogans is -3.

    I know Thibodeau likes his rotations, but Korver has been the best bench player, and arguably the second best offensive option on the team during the playoffs. Are his stats just inflated or is there a good reason to not be playing him 25-30 minutes a game at the expense of Brewer and Bogans time?

  8. contrerasadvocates@yahoo.com'
    Savage May 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    I am going to disagree with most here. This game was an embarrassment. The Bulls did not play with intensity, no extra effort on rebounds no toughness on defense. Noah did not do a good job of protecting the paint he needs to get more than 1 block. Part of our edge is out rebounding teams we did not do this in game one and we lost partly due to that. This team falls apart at the start of almost every game in the playoffs and falls behind. We go on major droughts on offense which makes no sense. We need to get in the paint and either score or get fouled to prevent this but players settle for jump shots and we get in holes. I think this team has the talent to contend for a title but they do not seem to have the maturity to know they need to play with intensity 100% of the games in the playoffs to win a title. That is what makes it frustrating for me is I think they have the talent but the effort comes an goes. They turn it off and on. Frustrating to watch.

  9. Inception May 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    @Savage – Ditto.

    they got some growing to do.

  10. Chi Fan May 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    The Bulls really didn’t play that bad, and if contested permiter jump shots consitute “any shot they wanted”, then you are correct. Let’s be real here, hawks players not named Joe Johnson shot 46% from the field and 25% from the three. There is no way he shoots like he did in another game this series, he didn’t even take a single shot with-in 9 feet of the basket. That is not sustainable production.

    The only problems I have are the Bulls didn’t make two adjustments: 1) try harder to deny the ball to JJ when he was consistently hitting shots, like the pacers started doing to Rose last series, and 2) adjust to the fact that the referees were letting them play tonight, as evidenced by the low foul calls on both teams.

  11. The Rock May 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Lack of experience is very noticeable as well as a second option in scoring. Deng was attacking early and had a good game, Boozer played better, but they just dont seem consistent enough. Boozer is slow on defense and even on offense just looks sluggish. Their turnovers early on looked very Indiana-ish. The Bulls at one point in the 3rd quarter looked to have control of the game and then just an epic collapse. I hope they use the full they did when they blew the 20 pt lead during the regular season and just anihilated ATL in the next game putting 72 up at halftime. But Rose wont be 100% and in order for the Bulls to have a shot someone has to step up and be a consistent 2nd option on offense. I went from thinking this series being over in 5 games to now feeling it will be 7, and it can go either way. Matt, you are right on the 50% chance for ATL. People slept on them, just as they did against Indiana which we all know could have gone lopsided if it werent for those 4th quarter rallies. Bulls need to step it up NOW and GAME 2 is a must win, because say Chicago does get out of this series, this sloppy play just wont fly against Miami or Boston.

  12. Dennis-from GA May 3, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    I stated that no one was giving us a chance.. Hawks aren’t contenders..hmmm really 4 years in a row in the playoffs lost to (Boston, Cleveland, Orlando) we were not beaten no scrubs. Write us off for game 2 … Please! This was not an accident, we have been developing this team for years our coach is just doing what the former coach didn’t. Going beyond 2 or 3 players on the bench. Is game 2 a must win for the bulls? Can they go to ATL 0-2 and win the series? We are not contenders but like I said .. we weren’t here by accident!

  13. mark.samelson@gmail.com'
    Mark S. May 3, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more with this, spot on. We need to come out with another level of intensity, like Grandpa Noah is in the stands. I never saw that kind of intensity in this game, we were just going through the motions.

    Also: where was the fluid offense we saw in Game 5 vs. Indiana last night? Our passing lanes weren’t there, nobody was moving without the ball, it was ugly basketball offensively.

  14. andyrew123@yahoo.com'
    ORD May 3, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    At those saying you’re not worried, just game 1 – that’s what the Orlando fans said, too. Don’t take Atlanta lightly. “Just one game” turned into 4 for Orlando.

  15. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath May 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    CHEMISTRY.

    This Hawks core has spent a good amount of time together and I think they understand how to flex and flow and how to keep feeding the hot hand.

    They trust each other.

    It may not mean as much in a regular season game, but when the focus is tightened, they are going to show it.

    The Bulls are lacking in chemistry. Pure hustle can come across sloppy when it is not guided by chemistry and trust. Now that the stakes are playoff-raised, the trust has to be reintroduced on the fly and it hasn’t happened so naturally.

    The Pacers displayed an amazing combination of hustle and chemistry in our series. We often tried to match it, but it mostly came across as sloppy.

    I don’t think anyone should be mad at Matt for being totally honest about the Bulls chances. What have they shown us? We barely pulled out three games against a feisty and inferior opponent and we dropped a deuce on our home court against a quality, veteran team. Based on the results, we have reason to be worried.

    This team cannot win pretending to be the best team in the league. It has to go back to the all-out team that is still trying to prove itself.

  16. bodybagsteven@gmail.com'
    BFD May 4, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    I felt the fact that Joe Johnson was hitting crazy shots really killed our momentum and frustrated the entire team. When you preach to contesting every shot, and then you contest every shot of another team and they STILL go in…it broke our spirit a little bit.

    Don’t forget, we came back and showed some life in this game in the 2nd/3rd. If JJ misses a few of those contested looks, this literally is a whole new ball game. Just have to tip your hat to them and work harder the next game. Now is not the time to panic.

  17. scott.atherley@mail.mcgill.ca'
    ScottA May 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Agree with most of the comments here; Bulls could have been better, but played well enough to win against a normal Hawks team. Hawks weren’t normal; Bulls lost.

    Short thought on Rose. I think his reliance on athleticism has been more noticeable the last two series. It still doesn’t hurt him that badly (he’s really, really athletic), but it cuts down on his efficiency and hurts his effectiveness as a passer. Notably – all the possessions where he jumps first and thinks second (happens at least 6 or 8 times a game); any basketball coach will tell you this is a bad idea. Rose often gets away with it, but not as easily during the playoffs.

  18. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath May 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    So true!

    Sometimes, it seems like Rose always goes so deep into the paint that there is not a good path to pass from … I think it would be good if he practiced more medium penetration to leave his options a little more open, while also reducing the chance for injury (and error).

    There was the flashpoint, early in the season, when he was not getting the calls he should and he stated openly that he was not going to shy from contact. I think he may have gone a little too deep into this philosophy.

    He has such a lovely medium to medium-close range game with the floaters and short-jumpers. He needs that variety in these playoffs.

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