Game 59 Recap: Hawks 83, Bulls 80

NBA games last for 48 minutes.

I know, I know. I’m stating the obvious. But I have to bring the obvious up after this one, right? I mean, the Bulls were dominant for 24 minutes last night. They scored the game’s first 14 points. They went up by as many as 19 points in the second quarter. They led 50-33 at the half.

After the half? Chicago got outscored 50-30. The offensive completely flamed out and the defense couldn’t control Al Horford (31 points, 13-for-20, 16 rebounds) or get key stops down the stretch.

As badly as the Bulls struggled to score during the third and fourth quarters, they still managed to go up 79-75 on a three-pointer by Kyle Korver with 1:37 to go. The Hawks then went on an 8-1 run over the final 1:16. While the Bulls were bumbling, stumbling and turning the ball over, the Hawks were making smart plays and hitting clutch shots.

But, to me, this game was lost in the third quarter. Chicago entered the second half with a 17-point lead. If the Bulls could have come out with a really strong effort to start the third, they could have buried the Hawks. Instead, they had three times as many turnovers (6) as points (2) in the first six and a half minutes of the second half.

That sloppy play opened a door the Bulls should have slammed shut.

Suddenly, the Atlanta crowd started getting excited. And so did the Hawks. So much so that Al Horford drilled his first three-pointer of the season to cut the lead to 54-48 with 5:07 left in the third. In fact, it was only the second triple of Horford’s career, the other one coming on November 16, 2009.

That aberration felt like a bad omen. The Hawks went on to win that quarter 25-13. Now they were down only 63-58. At home. With momentum.

The fourth quarter was scrappy. And the Bulls led the whole way until Horford tied the score on a free throw with 56 seconds left. Chicago closed out that final minute by hitting one of two free throws, turning the ball over and missing a couple threes. Atlanta worked their offense, going 2-for-2 and registering an assist on both buckets.

Game over.

There’s been a lot of talk the last few days about how the Bulls might just be championship contenders. Not next year, or over the next couple years, but right now. Just ask ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. But as good as this team has been, as much as I’ve enjoyed watching them this season, I don’t think they’re ready to make that leap.

The reason? Inconsistent play on the road. They’re 15-14 outside of Chicago. They’ve lost to good teams (Atlanta, Boston, Denver, L.A., New York, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio) and they’ve lost to bad teams (Charlotte, Golden State, New Jersey, Toronto).

In general, championship teams are win consistently on the road. The Bulls do not.

Last night’s game was the perfect example of the kind of game a contender should have won. The Hawks were without Josh Smith. Smith, based on Player Efficiency Rating, is Atlanta’s second-best player. To me, that meant: Advantage Bulls. And, like I said, they ran with that advantage for 24 well-played minutes.

But, again like I said, the game lasts 48 minutes.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agrees: “We couldn’t get stops and we couldn’t score. Beat ourselves at the end. Fouls 94 feet from the basket. Turning the ball over. But the game was lost long before that. When we got the big lead I thought we got real loose at the end of the second quarter. It carried over to start the third. … You got to play 48 minutes. You don’t do that, you’re not winning in this league.”

Added Joakim Noah: “It’s a tough way to lose, but it just shows, you’ve got to play the game for 48 minutes. I take full responsibility for not coming out with the right juice in the beginning of the third. They kind of got whatever they wanted to start that third quarter. And I think we’ve just got to bounce back quick.”

It didn’t help — and, actually, it hurt quite a lot — that Chicago’s MVP was (as Charles Barkley would put it) turrible. Derrick Rose scored only 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting. He dished out a game-high 12 assists, but he went 0-for-6 from three-point range and committed a game-worst 6 turnovers. His shot was so off I’m betting plants would have withered and died at his touch.

Said Rose: “Missing shots that I normally hit, I think. I made some careless passes where they led to fast breaks. This game was definitely on me, but I think I’m definitely going to learn from it and get better for it.”

I sure hope so.

Actually, the Bulls have a lot to learn. If Horford used and abused them like that, what’s Dwight Howard going to do to the Bulls in Orlando on Friday night? Anybody else feel those cold chills or was it just me?

Rose continued: “We just have to learn from it. When we’re up like that, we just have to put people away. Our defense has to get tougher, and no turnovers. I made some dumb passes, some careless passes, but I guarantee it won’t happen again.”

That’s the kind of talk I like to hear…but is Derrick right about that? Jeff Fogle of Hoopdata writes that Rose has been slumping since the All-Star break (30-for-72 on two-pointers and only 6-for-29 on threes). Fogle suggest that the constant pressure of carrying a team as a small man in a big man’s game is wearing Rose down. Especially against playoff-caliber teams.

I don’t know whether that’s the case. It’s a five-game sample. But I will say this: I wasn’t happy that Derrick didn’t focus on getting to the line last night. He was 2-for-3 at the charity stripe, and one of those attempts came on a technical free throw. Rose earned a trip to the line only once (with 43 seconds left in the first half).

All players, even the great ones, have bad shooting games. Michael Jordan had plenty of them. But MJ, when he wasn’t hitting, put his head down and drove his body into the competition. Take the 1998 NBA Finals. Jordan’s shooting went to hell over the final three games of that series. But he went to the line 41 times. He earned 15 foul shots in Game 6 in Utah.

Superstars have to earn freebies in these situations. Tight game on the road against a lesser but still playoff-bound opponent? A grind-it-out affair?

Draw fouls, young man.

But hey, this loss isn’t all on Derrick. As a team, the Bulls missed eight free throws and gave up 18 points off 17 turnovers. And they lost by three points. If they could have avoided a mistake here or there, knock down a few more foul shots or hold on to a few more possessions, they would have been celebrating a big win instead of bumming out over a tough loss.

Redemption can come in Orlando.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

25 Responses to Game 59 Recap: Hawks 83, Bulls 80

  1. Inception March 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    one of the most frustrating losses this season…a loss like this puts things in perspective and shows this team still has some growing to do…and i agree, this team is not ready to win a title with their .500 play on the road…the Spurs did manage to win a title (in 2005 i believe) with a road record of 21-20, BUT, that team had more experience…that’s what this team needs…more experience.

    bleigh82 March 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    A tough, tough loss. Agreed that the third quarter did the Bulls in. When Derrick is struggling like he was yesterday, Thibs needs to do a better job of having the Bulls run the offense through Boozer. It seemed like he barely touched the ball on the block down the stretch even though Derrick clearly didn’t have it. If he is going to be in late in close games, he has to get touches or there is really no reason for him to be out there because he is such a liability on defense.

    Kind of agree on the Bulls as true contenders. I think they will be tough out in the playoffs…but if they continue to lose road games they won’t move up to at least the 2 seed. I don’t see them winning two series in a row without home court advantage. But hey, you never know. Hopefully the team learns from this and Derrick busts out of this mini shooting slump of his.

    Tony C. March 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    this loss is primarily on Rose and Thibs. Yes, even great players have bad games, but the smartest of the great players learn to try different things when their shots aren’t clicking. Rose isn’t there yet.

    Which leads me to Thibs. He is clearly a great defensive coach, and I’m thrilled to have him. But he is not a strong offensive coach, and the whole notion of letting Rose run the offensive was ridiculous from the beginning. Thibs and the other coaches need to teach Derrick how to run the offense, in part by designing and implementing more plays which do not feature him as the likely first option. Use Boozer more down low. Use Taj down low when he’s in there. Create more shots for Korver. Etc.

    Rose has proven to be a serious student, and quick learner, but he needs some guidance, and my primary playoff concern is that the team might still be stuck in an overly Rose-centric offense.

    inkybreath March 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    And, we wasted a great effort by Asik. He really tried to step in and reverse the flow for us. That part was really great to watch …

    West Aussie Bulls Fan March 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Agree inkybreath, after a couple of nervous moments when he first entered the game, Asik found his way and bought Noah-like hustle in while Noah himself was taking a breather. Asik even dived after a loose ball into the crowd. Asik needs to be smarter than that though as I’m sure those guys in the front row have families to support and don’t want to get injured by guys diving on loose balls.

  6. Inception March 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    we all know this team thrives in the underdog role, so if they can somehow manage to win the next two road games, i think this loss can be negated to a degree…however, ORL is playing good ball right now, and MIA certainly does not want to be swept by CHI…don’t be shocked by an L3.

  7. Multi-year sufferer March 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Following this team primarily through highlights, box scores, and online recaps, it’s hard for someone like myself to get a true understanding of how good this team is, so I watched the entire game last night (note – did not make me want to get the NBA league pass). Here’s my questions for the more learned and the implication that I see:

    A. Is the offense so inept that it produces multiple airballs?
    Watching Rose, Watson, Brewer, and even our beloved Korver produce shots that didn’t touch anything really drove me insane.

    Impication: When Rose is off(and that means everyone else that feeds off of Rose is going to be off (e.g., Taj, Korver), Boozer is locked down inside (by us not passing him the ball?), and Deng has to chase the other team’s best player on defense, this team is unwatchable on offense (exactly how many airballs were there?). Bigger question is – how likely is this to happen at least a few times in a 7-game playoff series?

    B.Was everyone out partying in the Atlanta late night scene or was there another reason why Asik was the team’s best player last night?

    After getting out to a big, early lead (14-0), the Bulls then sunk back into cruise control and eventually shifted down into total offensive and defensive ineptitude. The reason the team got out to a huge advantage in the beginning was that they just played harder than the Hawks – and Asik’s success during the game showed that.

    Implication: It’s still unclear to me why the priority hasn’t been made to bully the ball inside. For some reason, Boozer only got off 11 shots against a combination of Jason Collins/Hilton Armstrong/and someone named Zaza. There was a clear opportunity to do this in this game – the team had a huge lead in the beginning – why not shift our offensive strategy to the inside game to slow the game down and cruise into victory?

    C.Is Rose’s game mature enough to win in the playoffs?
    Rose’s game last night was a good reminder of some of his playoff games, specifically against the Celtic. He lead the way with many no-brain passes (trying to thread the needle through two Hawks defenders that resulted in a fast break the other way), too much dribbling, and shots with no prayer of going on (0 for 6 on 3-pointers).

    Implication: Are we pushing too hard to put him on a pedestal for MVP? Does more of the the team’s success come from simply being a very good defensive team (which they were again last night)?

    D.How much of the result of the game was due to the lack of flow of the game?

    It’s pretty clear that the game had no real flow last night, as the Bulls and Hawks just dominated their respective halves of the game. It’s almost like the Bulls are a racing horse that needs to run with another horse to bring out the best in them. Isn’t this what happened in game 7 of the Celtics playoff series two years ago – didn’t the Bulls get out to a big lead and then watch it slip away?

    Implication – Bringing Noah back doesn’t secure us the requisite intensity to win, especially in the playoffs.

  8. Anonymous March 3, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    The world is coming to an end part 18. The season is 82 games long. Every team in the NBA has at least one, probably more, games like this one on their resume. It was an off night. After the seasons we have lived through since 1998 how come we can’t enjoy the success we are watching this year. If it leads to a championship great, our wishes will have come true, if it doesn’t it will still have been a great season unless you use 72-10 as the bench mark of a great season.

  9. TBF March 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Chicago fans in general blow more hot and cold than any fanbase I’ve ever seen.

    The Bulls have a good night, OMG they’re championship contenders, told ya so!!

    The Bulls have an off night, OMG there’s no way they gonna win, Derrick Rose really isn’t as good as we thought, blah blah blah.

    Stay the course, young man. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. Every game against every team can’t be a measuring stick. You’ll give yourself ulcers trying to do that.

    Matt McHale March 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    TBF — I’m specifically concerned about their play on the road. Over the past 26 years, the NBA champions with the worst road records were 2006 Miami (21-20) and 2005 San Antonio (21-20). The rest of them were well above .500 on the road.

    Road play matters.

  11. cliniclysick March 3, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    “Chicago fans in general blow more hot and cold than any fanbase I’ve ever seen.”

    TBF – You should see my fellow Yankee fans once baseball season starts. Every loss is devastating, and we play 162 instead of 82! Total insanity on the message boards.

    It was without a doubt the worst loss of the season, but hopefully it’s a lesson learned. This team should know 20-point leads aren’t what they were 15-20 years ago. In today’s NBA, you have to keeping pushing the lead no matter what, you just can’t let up. Now on to Florida, let’s hope they come out with fire in their eyes this weekend.

    inkybreath March 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    **Um, this blog post is for this specific game, so I think we are allowed to analyze the pros and cons of the night and see what it might mean going forward. There were expectations, especially with Josh Smith out and our success at the beginning of the game that were notable – due to how much it turned around in the second half.
    **There is no way to remove our expectations now. They have battled for the record they have and it has been wonderful to watch. Now, the game-by-game dashed hopes just come with that territory. Just sit back and enjoy not having an ulcer… I am just happy that my team is good enough to give me that ulcerous state…**

    It was so apparent that the game was slipping away that we assumed they could see and smell it and we were waiting for the team to react and, particularly, throw the ball into the post and get some easy baskets. Noah and Boozer did such a great job of passing to each other in the lane and it just disappeared.

    The other thing was that Rose did not attack the middle of the lane. He kept cruising the baseline and getting trapped and then kept throwing easily marked passes back out to the top of the key and the wings. Both he and CJ had an odd look to their jumpers last night.

    Again, Atlanta got inspired and they beat us to it.

    chitown4life March 4, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    So we lost to the hawks not sure but i kinda felt like our team lost the focus or desire to play the hawks cause they had them totally blown out from the opening tip .
    Rose boozer and Deng and noah all will be fine but what about korvers wide open three he did not even hit the rim wow was he not brought here to shoot the ball i question only that he needs be come more of a consistant scorer when on the floor to add another side to the team .
    Finally watch the next three game i m sure as I am sure rose is and will be the MVP this year that our team will play hard compete all the game everyone they play from here on they learned something that night you cannot feel sorry for any team no one will feel sorry for them if they lose.this was a team loss that simple and team includes the coach also…Peace

  14. Bulls Fan in Ohio March 4, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    This is a good bulls team and they could contend for a title easily. The recent trade by Boston for jeff green helped our chances even more. The lakers could be tough for the bulls in the finals but this team could beat the lakers in a seven game seris. I say the lakers because the spurs are too old and the age will catch up with them and the heat just don’t stand a chance to get a by any good team in the EAST. This could be our Yaer and we’ve waited long enough.

  15. Bulls Fan in Ohio March 4, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    I beleive in this team we have a good group of guys. Derrick Rose is gonna get even better. Noah like rodman is a bad man in the middle and his offense is always improving. Boozer is a beast and can handle most top PFs in the league. Deng like Pippen can do it all well enough to make a difference and Bogans is trash but can play a little D. Winning Titles only happens when a team has someone like Rose. NO mention LBJ he’s a fag who doesent want to take the final shot Rose will and he’ll make it.

    Nicky C March 4, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    I was so pissy about the loss to ATL that I went to sleep way too late…which caused me to miss work the next day…which caused me to grow even more pissy.

    However, watching the CHeat fall apart down the stretch to the Magic last night made me feel much better about the ATL game.

  17. Inception March 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    @Nicky – i wouldn’t look too much into the MIA collapse…i have a feeling they will show up in the playoffs.

    i’m still pissed about the loss to ATL…that was an opportunity to keep the momentum going into ORL…hopefully, the ORL game will be a classic case of a “let-down” for ORL after coming off an emotional win vs. MIA….but if ORL comes out knocking down 3’s like they did last night….forget about it.

    chitown4life March 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Tonight will be another statement game for our Bulls, when the last whistle blow i am sure our bulls will be on the winning side of the score not cocky, just confident I know they all are ready and DRose seems to keep his promises he said this will never happen again i think his word is good with me.Well tonight we shall see ..Peace Do All will show up also Do All A.K.A Loul Deng..

  19. Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    I did not see this game. Did Hinrich get in Rose’s shorts? Rose definitely had an off game.

    I expect that we will see Kurt Thomas tonight in Orlando.

    Savage March 4, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    @inception, I disagree about the heat. The heat have a 14-16 record versus teams over 500 this year so far. And are like 2-8 versus the top 5 teams in the league. To pretend they can turn everything around come playoffs this year seems a bit of a stretch. They lack the depth to beat out a well rounded playoff team in my opinion. I definitely see they have two of the most talented players in the league but this does not appear to be their year. We will see though I have been wrong many times before.

  21. Inception March 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    @Savage – perhaps, but superstars bring their best come playoff time….well, maybe the jury is still out on Lebron’s motivation and drive in the playoffs, but his #’s in the playoffs are pretty extraordinary…i’m just saying, don’t be surprised to see a different MIA team in the playoffs.

  22. Brian March 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    heading to Amway in a bit to see if Chicago can pull it out against the Orlando D12’s. i’ll be wearing my D-Rose jersey, which i’m sure will go over wonderfully with Orlando fans. haha.

  23. Luvabull March 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Arrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhh! Not one of the worst losses. It was THE WORST LOSS this season.

    Is Rose in a slump? Yes his stats are not good since the All-star break. But no one made this point: The other teams are realizing that if they stop D-Rose, they stop the Bulls. Part of the reason D-Rose was putting up MVP numbers was that he was taking over in the second half of games and taking more shots for himself. Of course no one complained (myself included), because the Bulls won. I would love to see a FGA in first half vs. 2nd half for Rose vs. Boozer or Rose vs. rest of team. I’d be willing to bet Rose’s FGA for the second half are a significantly greater % of the Bulls’ team FGA.
    So now the teams have learned to rachet up their “D” against Rose in second half of games. Adjustment. Now Rose has to realize that and get his (open) teammates involved. He has to draw the defense and trust his team mates to beat them. Counter Adjustment! That is what great PGs do.

    A point on Boozer’s defense. A number of stars (even All-stars) are considered weak defenders. Great offensively, but ineffective or lacking defensively. Amar’e comes to mind. ‘Melo comes to mind. D-Rose comes to mind. Nowitsky, Nash and Ellis come to mind. But when it comes to Boozer, a different adjective must be used. Indifferent? perhaps. Clueless? perhaps. I have watched ‘Melo defend LeBron, Durant even Kobe. He gets more focused, tries harder on the defensive end. Same for Amar’e and D-Rose. They at least try harder, make the effort to defend. Same with the other stars mentioned above. While their defensive talents don’t nearly match their offensive prowess, at least the effort is there.
    I can’t say I have seen that from Boozer. That is a big disappointment. With out an improvement from Boozer on defense, and a willingness to defer to team mates in the fourth quarter from D-Rose, the Bulls may be very vulnerable even in the first round of the playoffs. Even with home court advantage.

    inkybreath March 4, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    Speaking of that Korver 3 ball at the very end: I got the impression that he was as shocked as I was that DRose didn’t pass him the ball initally (as I believe he should have…)

  25. Bulls Fan in Ohio March 6, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    I still wished the bulls never got rid of capt kirk he was making quite a bit but he played good D and could knock down big shots miss em.

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