Tom Thibodeau was about as upbeat as I've ever seen him in the post game press conference. That's because the Bulls threw out a defense that was absolutely extraordinary. Chicago clamped down on the Hawks in a way few teams ever clamp down on anyone.
It wasn't matter of Atlanta missing shots. Atlanta had only a handful of good looks all game. The Bulls showed a lightning like double team, trapping anyone with the ball, but recovering to the open man too fast for Atlanta to do anything.
Carlos Boozer got his groove back
We've been complaining about Carlos Boozer for awhile, however, Boozer drilled his jumper over and over and over. The Boozer/Rose pick and roll was a thing of beauty tonight, working better than it has all year long.
I'm still fairly nervous about Boozer as he was getting most of his points off jumpers, so I'm not sure he has the lift back fully yet. However, he has looked more fluid in the last couple of games which is a good sign.
The Bulls have until Sunday to rest, so Boozer will get a couple more days for the toe to hear prior to the matchup against Miami. The Bulls will need Boozer to play at a high level to get past Miami.
Sharing the ball
The Bulls interior passing in this game was unparalleled. They were able to make all the short littler interior passes to yield dunk after dunk when they got the ball inside. Everyone was getting into the action. The Bulls finished with an amazing 34 assists out of 41 made shots.
Derrick Rose had been criticized for taking too many shots, but he took only 14 shots tonight, his lowest total in the series. However, he had 12 assists, and probably another 5 hockey assists.
Luol Deng took a nasty spill early
However, he stayed in the game and played well. He was a huge contributor in both defense and passing and blanketed Joe Johnson for most of the night. I really liked Deng's movement tonight. He only finished 6/14, but he had some phenomenal passes tonight to set up easy shots for his teammates.
Taj Gibson continues to dominate
Taj just looks like an amazing player. Do you remember when he was drafted. The nickname Taj "not Blair" Gibson was formed. Anyone second guessing that one now?
I love Taj in at the end of games to close. His offense has been much improved, and his defense has been incredible.
Tonight is a night to celebrate. The Bulls are ECF bound and will face the Miami Heat. With a couple days off until game time, I'll write plenty on that matchup separately.
This Bulls team has had its struggles in the playoffs, but it's entering this next series as hot as they've earn all year long.