In the NBA playoffs, thanks to the best-of-seven series, the better basketball team usually wins.
That’s what happened last night.
While it’s certainly true the Bulls haven’t always played up to their potential this postseason, they did it on the road in Game 6, blowing out the Hawks in their own arena. There were some crazy numbers in this one. Like Chicago’s 53.2 percent shooting. If you subtract their 3-for-13 effort from beyond the arc, the Bulls converted 59 percent of their two-pointers. And they registered 34 assists on their 41 made baskets.
That’s pretty incredible.
The Chicago D came through yet again, holding Atlanta to 36.5 percent from the field and only 1-for-11 from three-point range. Al Horford (2-for-10) and Jamal Crawford (also 2-for-10) were non-factors, and Joe “The 120 Million Dollar Man” Johnson managed only 19 points on 18 shots and committed a game-high 4 turnovers.
Said Derrick Rose: “If anything, our defense won this game.”
Added Crawford: “After Game 1, they made me and Joe’s life a living hell.”
That’s what this team does. And credit Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for remembering the Bench Mob in this series. For whatever reason, Thibs was reluctant to play the reserves much in the first round. The bench played a much bigger role in this series and it made a difference. Particularly because the Hawks — who were without Kirk Hinrich — don’t get much production outside of the starting unit.
Said Horford: “What goes underrated about them is the depth of their team. They just wear on you. They just kept coming, kept coming every game. It seemed like their starters were fresh.”
Carlos Boozer sure looked fresh. He went 10-for-16 from the field (and 7-for-10 on jumpers) to finish with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal. The sigh of relief from Bulls fans after Boozer’s big night probably altered weather patterns across the globe.
Said Booz: “D-Rose gets so much attention. The 15-footer was open for me. I shot it.”
Speaking of Rose, he attempted his fewest field goal attempts of the postseason (14) and finished with his second-lowest playoff point total (19), but he dished out 12 assists (to only 3 turnovers) and finished with a game-high plus-minus score of +24.
It was just a precision game for the Bulls. They did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to do it. But what about Atlanta? I mean, the Hawks didn’t just play poorly. They looked beaten from the opening tip.
Jeff Fogel of Hoopdata writes: “Atlanta committed only 12 personal fouls on the night. TWELVE! That means Chicago was getting their looks without drawing contact. As passive as it gets.”
“Atlanta let the Bulls put on a Globetrotter’s passing clinic, as 35 of Chicago’s 41 baskets were assisted. So, it wasn’t a case of Chicago taking turns driving straight to the basket for layups. It was pass-pass-pass open look. Half-hearted rotations AND not hitting anybody from the Hawks.”
“While trailing most of the second half by double digits, Atlanta still played incredibly slow on offense. No sense of urgency. No ‘we’ve got to get back into this thing’ mentality. Patiently work for a shot to see if you can cut a 16-point deficit to 14…then go back and move around slowly on defense.”
It’s hard to say what happened. The Hawks were playing pretty spirited basketball through the first five games. Their collective will seemed to break during the fourth quarter of Game 5. Remember: Their starters were logging nearly 40 minutes per night against a grueling defensive team. Like Horford said, the Bulls’ depth wore them down.
Like I said, the better team usually wins.
There’s not much more to say than that, is there? The Bulls, simply put, thoroughly outplayed the Hawks in every conceivable way. They did what they were supposed to do — what everybody thought they should do — and now they will face the Miami Heat for a chance to go to the NBA Finals.
Said Rose: “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to definitely be fun.”