Game Three Stats:
Derrick Rose: 44 points (16-27), 5 rebounds, 7 assists
Taj Gibson: 13 points (5-9), 11 rebounds
Jeff Teague: 21 points (8-13), 3 rebounds, 3 assists
For the first time since the regular season, the Bulls looked like the 62 win team that so many were waiting to show up in the playoffs, with a solid offense and a stifling defense. And with that win, Chicago regained home court advantage in the series.
Derrick Rose recorded a new career-high, 44 points, with a true shooting percent of 71.1. Rose was even hitting from three (4-7). It is almost impossible to defend Rose when he is hitting from outside. The defender has to make a choice: let Rose shoot the three or long jumper and hope he misses it, or close out on the three, which makes it easier for Rose to drive. When Rose is hitting, it’s a scary realization for the defense. Derrick’s offensive rating was 154, while his defensive rating was 105. His assist percentage was 52.9 as well, so he wasn’t just scoring, he was dishing as well.
But for as well as Rose played, the rest of the starters played an underwhelming game. The four other starters scored only 21 combined points. But really, the Bulls got back to what they were doing in the regular season, and used their rotation to their advantage. The bench came up huge, scoring 34 points, on efficient shooting (12-24), while holding the Hawks bench to just 14 points.
And although the starters, with the exception of Rose, might not have scored much, they kept the Hawks from getting anything going. Chicago’s starters all had a plus/minus of at least +9. Actually, everyone on the Bulls had an even or positive plus/minus: total team effort.
Joakim Noah had a pretty sad shooting night (1-8), but as usual he did everything else, especially working the offensive glass. Noah had eight offensive rebounds, almost more than the entire Hawks team (nine). This looked similar to many regular season games, in which the Bulls just looked like the better and harder-working team. Game one wasn’t like that, game two was getting there, and game three was it.
There are some spots to worry about though. Jeff Teague scored 21 points (8-13) and was going basket-for-basket with Rose for a while in the first quarter, before Rose realized he was much better than Teague and took over. Teague probably could’ve kept scoring, but the Hawks got away from Teague and got into their isolation offense (which wasn’t great again).
If the Bulls want anyone to get hot, shouldn’t it be Teague? Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford can get hot, and kill you. Horford got hot in the regular season against the Bulls and dropped 31 points on 13-20 shooting. Johnson and Crawford were hot in game one and the Hawks won. Since game one Crawford and Johnson have combined for 44 points, less than they scored in game one alone. That is more like the Chicago defense that has been there all season.
But Teague isn’t the same type of offensive player as those guys. Teague can keep scoring around 20 points, if the hot hands for Atlanta are not scoring more than ten points (which is what happened in game three), Chicago should be alright (unless Zaza Pachulia goes off).
The Bulls also crushed Atlanta on the boards. Chicago won the rebound battle 47 to 34. Taj Gibson recorded an offensive rebound percentage of 30.1, while Joakim Noah’s was 26.4.
If Chicago plays defense and controls the boards like that in the rest of the series, good things will come.
Boozer played only 22 minutes in game three, but they were solid minutes. He scored six points (3-6) and grabbed six rebounds while dishing out two assists. Boozer has two torn ligaments in his big toe. Which is obviously affecting his play, and most likely why he only played 22 minutes. But luckily the Bulls didn’t need Boozington to be at his best. And actually Taj Gibson did more than what Bulls fans have come to expect from Boozer during these playoffs.
But will Boozer sit out? “I’m going to play,” Boozer said. “I’m doing what I can to help my team win. And my teammates and my coaches want me out there.” The Bulls want, and need, Boozer out there if he is producing, but Thibodeau should keep a close eye on him, if he isn’t performing.
The Hawks couldn’t stop Derrick from stepping on their throats in game three, so expect adjustments, to try to force someone else to beat them. “We’ve got to try to figure out a new defense,” Teague said. “I don’t think we changed anything up during the course of the game. I’m sure next game, we’ll add different coverages and different schemes if he gets on a roll like that. … We have to. You can’t guard him the same way three games straight. He’s the MVP. He’s going to start picking you apart.” The rest of the Bulls have to be ready, when the Hawks double Rose in game four.
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.