Game Four Stats:
Derrick Rose: 34 points (12-32), 10 assists
Carlos Boozer: 18 points (7-10), 6 rebounds
Josh Smith: 23 points (8-22), 16 rebounds, 8 assists
Al Horford: 20 points (9-11), 5 rebounds
Joe Johnson: 24 points (9-14)
Going back home it’s now a three game series for the Bulls. Give credit to the Hawks for coming back from a game four spanking. But the Bulls cannot be outplayed again. Chicago was all about hustle and outworking their opponent during the regular season. They haven’t had that same hunger game-in and game-out thus far in the playoffs, and Derrick Rose knows it.
“If anything, I think that all of us are mad with the effort that we put in the last game,” Rose said. “It wasn’t good enough. Tomorrow, we’re playing back in our building. The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable, and we’re just going to have to play.”
Chicago’s interior defense was weak. Here are Atlanta’s shot locations from Hoopdata:
At the rim: 22-34 (64.8 percent)
3-9 feet: 4-10 (40 percent)
10-15 feet: 4-5 (80 percent)
16-23 feet: 6-21 (28.6 percent)
Threes: 4-11 (36.4 percent, or 56.4 effective field goal percentage)
There was a lot of talk about how Josh Smith killed the Bulls. Looking at the shot locations again, he did it from the inside (and the line). Smith shot 6-11 at the rim and 7-9 from the charity stripe. From everywhere else he shot just 2-11. The Bulls need to keep Smith on the outside, baiting him into longer shots. He reminds me of a high school center, who doesn’t know his range yet. The fans know his range, and scream at him when he is open for a long jumper, but it seems like he wants to prove the fans and critics wrong, and show he can make those shots (which is fine with me, stop dunking and just shoot long twos). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that long jumpers are harder than lay-ups. But it is especially important against this Hawks team; a team that loves to take jumpers.
The Bulls always need to continue closing out on shooters, but they can’t allow the Hawks to score so easily in the paint. Chicago got outscored 56 to 40 in the paint. The Hawks barely have a starting center; that shouldn’t happen in this series. And the Bulls 108.7 defensive rating cannot happen again in this series.
And while the Hawks were hitting from in close, Chicago shot just 13-28 from the rim (46.5 percent). Rose missed more than half of Chicago’s shots at the rim, going 6-14. Deng went 1-3 and Ronnie Brewer went 0-2, missing another breakaway in which he couldn’t decide if he wanted to dunk, lay it up or embarrass himself. He went with the last choice.
But the bigs were good in close. Joakim was 1-1, Carlos Boozer was 2-3, Taj Gibson was 2-2 and Omer Asik was 1-2. The problem was Chicago’s big-men didn’t get enough chances to score, on the inside or anywhere.
Boozer was finally hitting shots and looked like he had found his rhythm. He went 7-10 from the field, but didn’t really get a chance in the fourth. And for as good as the bigs were doing, Chicago’s guards were not playing well.
As a team the Bulls were 3-16 from three. That is 18.8 percent. Luol Deng was 1-6, Kyle Korver was 0-5 and Bogans was 1-2. If these guys are supposed to keep the defense honest and give Derrick Rose a little bit of room to drive, they weren’t doing it. And when Rose did drive and kick, nothing was going down.
So what do the Bulls need in game five? More ball movement on offense, getting more people involved and not forcing Rose into having to create every shot. While also tightening up on defense. Easier said than done…but a 62-win team with the MVP and Coach of the Year should be able to make mid-series adjustments better than their opponent.
“Seeing as their backs were against the wall, they played a lot harder,” Taj Gibson said. Well now the series is all tied up, and both teams have their backs against the wall. Chicago does not want to go back to Atlanta down in this series, and with the Hawks able to close the series on their home court.
In this series, Noah has logged 147 minutes, and sat 45. While he is in, Atlanta has a 102.8 offensive rating. With Noah on the bench, the Hawks have a 91.74 offensive rating. Atlanta’s effective field goal percentage is 51.3 when Jo is playing. With Noah off the court: 36.0 eFG. Noah might be out when more of Atlanta’s starters are resting as well, but these numbers aren’t good for Chicago’s biggest defensive stopper, and they don’t get prettier.
When it comes to shooting in the restricted area, Atlanta is shooting 66 percent with Noah on the court, and just 44 percent with him off. It’s the same story in the paint. The Hawks shoot 51 percent with Noah playing and 29 percent with him sitting. Atlanta also is shooting 40 percent from three with Jo on the court, but you can’t blame him for that.
Someone who seems to be making an impact on defense though is Taj Gibson. With Gibson on the court (68 minutes) Atlanta has an 88.7 offensive rating and 40 percent eFG. They also have just a 56.7 defensive rebounding percentage when Gibson in on the court (the Hawks do grab 29 percent of the offensive rebound when Gibson is in though).
Those same shot locations with Gibson in? Atlanta is 43 percent from the restricted area and 24 percent from the paint, compared to 70 percent from the restricted area and 59 percent with Gibson out.
I’m not saying sit Noah, because his energy, defense and rebounding are priceless, but maybe Gibson needs to get a few more minutes. He would’ve helped in game four when the Hawks were killing Chicago inside (Gibson logged just 13 minutes in that game).
Atlanta’s starting line-up (of Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford) have a defensive rating of 113.94 and an offensive rating of 93.93 throughout the playoffs. That gives Atlanta’s starters a net rating of -20.1 (and when they swap Williams for Jamal Crawford, which they often do in crunch time, they still have a negative net rating, at -4.31). With these numbers it would be nice to see the Bulls jump on Atlanta early.
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.