The Bulls needed this.
They needed to prove they’re still the team that won a league-best 62 games during the regular season. The Bulls controlled Game 2, but even after Chicago won that one to tie the series, Jamal Crawford seemed unconcerned.
Said Crawford: “If that’s their best shot, we’re in good shape.”
I think that qualifies as a lack of respect. Which is understandable, I guess. The NBA doesn’t give out trophies to teams with the best regular season record. This Bulls team hasn’t proven anything yet.
Last night’s performance might not have proven the Bulls can win a title. But I think it proved the Hawks hadn’t gotten their best shot yet. I wonder if Crawford wishes he had kept his thoughts to himself.
By the way: Derrick Rose.
Rose needed last night as much as the Bulls did as a team. He needed to remind the Hawks and the world why he’s the MVP of the league. Which is what he did: 44 points (a career-high) on 16-for-27 shooting. He went 4-for-7 from downtown and 8-for-9 at the line. Rose also added 7 assists, 5 rebounds, a steal and a block. And as ESPN Stats and Information noted: “One of the more impressive aspects of Rose’s performance was that he was scoring from everywhere. He scored 12 points in the paint, 12 from three-point range, and 12 from mid-range, adding eight points at the free throw line.”
Rose was undeniably awesome. In nearly every sense of the word. But, as always, this was a team win. For instance, Joakim Noah may have gone a miserable 1-for-8 from the field, but he grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked 5 shots. Noah and Taj Gibson combined to pull down 14 of the team’s 18 offensive rebounds.
That reminds me. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau finally unleashed the Bench Mob on the Hawks. I have been openly critical of the fact that Thibs had, to this point, largely abandoned his regular season rotation. Well, the reserves got significant minutes last night, and it paid off.
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell pointed out: “Gibson played 26 minutes, scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Kyle Korver was 4-for-6 from the field and dropped in 11 points. C.J. Watson had eight points. Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik played solid minutes and ramped up the defensive intensity when needed.”
I loved seeing those guys do what they did during the regular season.
By the way, I keep calling for more Korver, and he keeps showing why. More from ESPN Stats and Information: “Kyle Korver continues to be hot from behind the arc. After making 3-4 3-pt FG on Friday, Korver is now 17-30 from behind the 3-pt line this postseason. Of players with a minimum of 30 attempts, Korver’s 56.7 3-pt FG pct is the 5th highest by a player in a single postseason in NBA history.”
I have to admit, I want Kyle shooting every time he touches the rock. I have total confidence in him.
Chicago’s D did it’s job on Joe Johnson (10 points, 4-for-12), Al Horford (10 points, 5-for-12) and Jamal Crawford (7 points, 3-for-7). Josh Smith had 17 points and 13 rebounds, but the Bulls lured him into shooting an awful lot of outside jumpers, which are the shots you want Smith taking.
Jeff Teague had another big game: 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Here’s the thing, though, and I mean this with all due respect. Teague is benefitting from a defense that is keyed in to shut down Atlanta’s primary scoring threats. It’s opening up a lot of opportunities for him. Rose keeps getting caught turning his head to see if his teammates need help, and the other Bulls aren’t switching off as aggressively as necessary when Rose get picked off because they seem more worried about their primary assignments.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Teague. He’s been really good. A major plus (and surprise) for the Hawks. But, like I said, the Bulls are trying to stop Johnson, Crawford, Horford and Smith. That’s creating chances for Teague.
Anyway, this was a great win, and (hopefully) a nice “back on track” game for the Bulls. After they lost Game 1, I was kind of dreading Games 2 and 3. Now I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in Game 4.