Game Two Stats:
Joakim Noah: 19 points (6-8 FG, 7-8 FT), 14 rebounds, 3 steals
Luol Deng: 14 points (6-13 FG), 12 rebounds
Jeff Teague: 21 points (7-14 FG), 3 steals, 2 blocks
Joe Johnson: 16 points (7-15 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 steals
Chicago pulled even in game two, but now they go on the road, looking to take the lead in the series and with a little chalkboard material. Jamal Crawford declared that if game two was the best the Bulls could play, the Hawks are going to be alright.
“If that’s their best shot, we’re in good shape,” he said. “As bad as we played, to be down six with four minutes to go, we had our chances. We’ll take some positives from it and watch some tape.”
Call me crazy, but I don’t think shooting 39.3 percent from the field is the best the Bulls can do. And I also think the Chicago’s defense and hustle had a lot to do with how poorly Atlanta played. But either way, both teams have a lot to improve on.
For Chicago, they played a much better defensive game, holding Atlanta to 33.8 percent from the field, but there is still something bothering me.
“It was better,” Tom Thibodeau said when asked to describe the difference between the game one and game two defenses from Chicago. “We still have some things we have to clean up.”
To quote one of the greatest sports movies ever, The Sandlot: “You’re killing me Smalls.” By that I am referring to Jeff Teague. Not all that small at 6’2”, but I just wanted to work a Sanlot quote into the post. Maybe not all that short in stature, but his effect on the game was supposed to be small. Or at least small when it came to his additions to the Hawks. When Hinrich was declared out, most fans rejoiced. Teague was supposed to be an easy beat for Derrick Rose, but he has been playing quite well. One turnover in two games. Rose had eight in game two alone. Teague is averaging 15.5 points (12-25 shooting for the series) and four assists.
Those numbers don’t blow you away, but they aren’t bad for a guy who was supposed to just be Rose’s doormat. Now Rose has a much bigger offensive role, which may account for part of the turnover disparity, but one turnover is still impressive (Russell Westbrook would kill for just one turnover).
Teague is a factor, but Chicago has bigger issues, like its offense. The Bulls aren’t going to shut a team out for four quarters…as much as I would like that to happen, which is why they need to start scoring, and scoring more efficiently. Chicago’s defense showed up last game, but their offense is still missing in action.
Luckily the Bulls haven’t really needed their offense to be great yet this postseason, because their defense has been good for the most part (and the Pacers forgot to show up for a few fourth quarters). According to ESPN Stats and Information, of their seven postseason games, the Bulls have shot under 40 percent in four of them. But in those games in which they shot under 40 percent, the Bulls have gone 3-1. Chicago shot 38.6 percent in those games, while holding their opponents to 38.1 percent shooting. Their defense has been the reason they have been winning, which is great, but that can’t last forever.
Speaking of defense, the Bulls also did a much better job in isolation defense in game two. After Atlanta shot 52.9 percent (9-17) in game one in isolation plays, the Bulls held the Hawks to just 35.7 (5-14) percent shooting in iso situations in game two. Part of that was Atlanta cooling off from being dialed in during game one, but it also shows the Bulls getting back to their basics. And I’m sure Thibodeau let them know they needed to make some improvements.
The Bulls remind me somewhat of the 2006 Chicago Bears….their defense is great, but can it carry them all the way? The Bears made it all the way to the Super Bowl that year, but lost to the best offensive leader in the game, Peyton Manning. The big difference is that the Bears were led by Rex Grossman, while Derrick Rose leads Chicago. And I don’t have to tell Chicago fans that Rose is a lot better than Grossman was. Grossman could’ve actually matched Rose’s turnovers from game two probably. Can Kyle Korver be the Devin Hester/special teams connection just for the juxtaposition?
But at some point the Bulls offense has to be productive. And if the offense is going to be as productive as it can be, Carlos Boozer will have to show up and replace the exoskeleton that has taken his spot. Boozer has had 14 shots from inside five feet… six of those shots have been blocked (he’s also made six). If his turf toe is hindering his play, as he says it is, then sit on the bench. Having an injured Boozer on the offensive, and more importantly the defensive, side of the ball, is not in the Bulls best interest (and Horace Grant agrees). It wasn’t all bad news from Boozer though, he has been rebounding well and pulled down eleven rebounds in game two.
Rose also has to show some more control when shooting the three. Rose is shooting just 21.1 percent from three (11-52). That’s the lowest among any player with 20 attempts. Rose is also averaging the most shot attempts per game of anyone in the playoffs. Rose has to take a lot of shots, because he is really the only one that can create (especially with Boozington’s turf toe). It would be nice to see more mid-range jumpers from Derrick. Actually it would be nice to see more layups, but it seems his ankle is bothering him and he isn’t driving like he was early in the Pacers series (and because of that not reaching the line nearly as much).
Rose will only have to shoot more if Kyle Korver keeps struggling to find his range. Korver was smoking hot to start the playoffs, shooting 11-17 (64 percent) in the first three post season games. Since then though, he is just 12-38 (31.6 percent). If the Bulls want to keep moving on, they need Korver’s stroke coming from the bench; otherwise he is just a defensive liability, especially against some of the Hawks lineups.
Another reason the Bulls won, was their reassertion of board domination. Chicago outrebounded the Hawks 58-39 in game two, after losing the rebound battle 38-37 in game one. The good out-weighed the bad in game two, but there is A LOT of room for improvement, just ask the MVP.
“We need to execute more,” said Rose after game two. “We’re having trouble with that. On the road, things are going to change.” The question remains, is it going to change for the better?
In series tied 1-1, the winner of game three has gone on to win the series 76.4 percent of the time.
This stat and many in the piece came from ESPN Stats and Information.
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.