Game Five Stats:
Derrick Rose: 33 points (11-24), 9 assists
Jeff Teague: 21 points (8-11), 7 assists
Closing. That’s what Chicago did in the fourth quarter of game five. That is what they can do tonight—close out Atlanta and reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
Chicago started and finished strong in game five, but it wasn’t pretty in between that (those pesky second and third quarters). The Bulls started the first quarter hot and held an eleven point lead after one. Then after letting Atlanta back in the game in the second and third quarter, and actually giving the Hawks the lead at points, Chicago started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run. Their defense made sure the Hawks wouldn’t be coming back.
If someone looked at the box score, they wouldn’t be able to tell how much the bench meant in this game.
Omer Asik: 20 minutes, zero points, 4 rebounds, 1 block
Taj Gibson: 20 minutes, 11 points (5-5 shooting), 2 rebounds, 2 assists
RonnieBrewer: 21 minutes, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
Those are nice numbers, but they aren’t great (with the exception of Gibson’s perfect shooting from the field, which was, well by definition, perfect). But those three guys, along with Rose and Deng, won the game for Chicago. The Bulls had a one point lead going into the fourth, and ended the game up 12.
It goes back to the rotation, which was such an important part of the regular season. And credit must be given to Thibodeau, for sticking with the hot hands.
“We’ve basically done that all year,” Thibodeau said. “When one group gets going, we’ll ride them a little bit longer. It just happened to be at the end of the game. We’ve relied on everybody.”
Joakim Noah (zero points) and Carlos Boozer (4-11 from the field) made it a little easier on Thibs, but it is still a decision that leaves him open for criticism. If the Hawks had come back, there would have been questions about why Chicago’s best players weren’t in during crunch time.
It just shows the trust this team has; players trust coaches, coaches trust players, and the players trust each other. Rose kept feeding the hot hand, Gibson, for 11 points in the fourth. Rose added eleven of his own, and the Bulls closed the game extremely well.
Chicago went back to what got them the best record in the regular season, and it felt good. In the fourth, Chicago’s defense was at its best. Instead of having a liability on the court in Kyle Korver, they played Ronnie Brewer instead; a very solid defender.
Brewer had two steals, and Chicago’s fourth quarter defense didn’t allow Atlanta anything easy. Or anything at all really. The Hawks shot 5-16 from the field in the fourth and turned the ball over five times. Atlanta scored only 15 points in the period. Game over.
Atlanta loves to go to their isolation offense, especially to Joe Johnson, and according to ESPN Stats and Information, Chicago has gotten a lot better at defending it. In game one, Johnson was 5-8 (62.5 percent) in iso. Since then, he is 9-26 (34 percent), including going 3-8 in game five. On other plays, Johnson is shooting 60.6 percent (20-33), so clearly it’s the Bulls defense holding him back on the isos. If defense wins championships, like the saying goes, then I like Chicago’s chances.
If there is one problem with Chicago’s defense, it is how there is a Jeff Teague sized hole in it. Teague had another good night, going for 21 points (8-11) and seven assists. There were a few times that Teague got into the lane way too easily. Chicago has to figure out how to stop these drives; otherwise the ship may go down, not necessarily in this series but in the next (if they make it there). But for as good as Teague played, he still recorded a plus/minus of -12.
After tonight, Chicago’s next game is in the United Center. The Bulls, and their fans, are just hoping that game is against the Heat.
In the five games so far in the Atlanta series, Luol Deng is shooting just 12.5 percent from three. He went 0-4 in game five and is 2-16 for the series. This comes after Lu shot 40.9 percent in the Indiana series and 34.5 percent in the regular season. Deng will need to start hitting from the outside to keep his defender honest on drives by Rose, and to make it easier for him to make drives of his own.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bulls are 12-1 all-time in a best-of-seven series when leading 3-2. Chicago’s only loss in that situation was to the Warriors in the 1975 Conference Finals. And in NBA history, when a team leads 3-2, they go on to win the series 85.5 percent of the time.
Josh, back up:
In this series, Josh Smith is shooting 60 percent (21-35) from within five feet. He is shooting just 10.3 percent (3-29) from ten feet and beyond. (This stat and others in the post 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.