An 0-2 deficit isn't an impossible hole to climb out of, but it's close enough that Chicago knows they certainly don't want to have to buck the odds. Start throwing around whatever cliches you want to describe the importance of this game, for Chicago, it's true. Losing to Atlanta would be a humiliating way to end an otherwise great season, so Chicago, who's only hit their A game once in the playoffs, better step it up.
It's MVP time
Chicago has campaigned for Rose all season long, he won the MVP, and the Bulls need their MVP to play like one now. He's got a deck stacked against him with an ankle that clearly bothers him far more than he's letting on. Atlanta played a "stop rookie D-Rose" defense on him last game, and it was effective.
Jeff Teague sagged 6 feet off Rose while he was behind the three point arc as if Rose had Rajon Rondo's shot, and for game one he did. Rose kept taking threes, and I agree that he should keep taking them, but he's got to start knocking them down at a respectable rate.
One way to improve his odds is to get the ball to Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer and shoot more of his threes in catch and shoot situations. From the eye test, he shoots much better out of a catch and shoot from beyond the arc than off the dribble.
We all want Rose to drive more, and his zero free throw attempts for game one can't repeat if the Bulls want to win. However, the paint will remain an awfully crowded place until the Bulls hit some outside jumpers and force the defenders to stretch the floor some.
Take off the defensive tunnel vision goggles and get Kyle Korver in the damn game
Look, I don't want to oversimplify things too much, but the Bulls were +17 while Korver was on the floor for 16 minutes. I love Tom Thibodeau, I think he was the no brainer coach of the year, but it's mind boggling how something so obvious to anyone with rudimentary basketball knowledge seems to be sitting in the middle of Tom Thibodeau's blindspot.
We need Kyle Korver to space the floor. We need someone on the court who can hit shots at all times and take up defensive attention outside of Derrick Rose. Kyle Korver was +17 last game and the next best +/- guy was Joakim Noah at zero. Given the tremendous success the Bulls had with him on the floor, how on Earth did he only play 16 minutes?
Defense doesn't win games. Offense doesn't win games. Scoring more points than your opponent, which is a combination of the two, wins games. Kyle Korver hurts the defense, but he helps the offense twice as much.
For the playoffs, the Bulls are averaging 10% better shooting and averaging 18 points per 48 minutes more scoring when Kyle Korver is in the game. Get him on the floor for 30 minutes. Wake up and smell what the opposing defense is doing out there just sitting with four guys in the paint laughing at our ability to knock down outside shots.
Bring the energy
The Bulls need to come out of the gate much stronger. While they were able to climb back into the game after spotting the Hawks 9 points, the Bulls need to try to build up a lead in this thing early for once and start playing like the team we thought they were in the regular season.
Chicago's played one good playoff game in six outings. The Bulls need to remain committed to moving without the ball and getting back on defense quickly to turn this into a half court affair where they have a player with an elite ability to create a half court shot and an elite defense at stopping half court shots.
Watch out for the guys who didn't kill you game one
Joe Johnson/Jamal Crawford may not repeat their performances, but Horford and Smith have plenty of room to improve on what they did in game one. Smith's an every other game type of guy anyway, and Horford has shown an ability to hurt the Bulls badly in the past.
Don't overreact to hot shooting and over commit to the perimeter and give up shots on the interior.
This team hasn't played like who we thought they were. I thought their 62 wins probably represented a better total than the quality of the team, much like I thought the same of San Antonio. Atlanta's also probably better than their record by a little bit as well.
All that said, the Bulls are still the better team, but the better team doesn't always win, and they sure aren't playing like it. I'm not so much scared of Atlanta as I'm scared that the Bulls can't get their act together. It's too many playoff games to ignore. This team simply hasn't performed well in the post season, and we can't sit here and say "they'll get it together" forever.
If they don't get it together tonight, it could be a humiliating exit from the 2nd round leaving a nasty taste in the mouth of Bulls fans for the entire off-season. We'd be on the path to becoming the new Mavericks where you simply couldn't trust whatever we do in the regular season, because we're coming off a massive choke job in the playoffs.
Let's not do that. Let's get this thing done.