The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks were evenly matched for half a quarter. Nothing seemed amiss yet. Then the Hawks went nearly 10 minutes without scoring a basket and finished the second quarter with just five points, 20 in the half. It was a dominant defensive effort combined with perhaps the worst shooting I've ever seen in an NBA game.
The only tension in this game came early on when Kyle Korver hit a couple of shots angering fans who remember how the Bulls didn't cover up on him well enough last game, but his one three was from about six feet behind the three point line, and Luol Deng just bullied him on offense repeatedly to take advantage of his time on the court.
When the final seconds ticked off, the Bulls had set team records for fewest points allowed in a game (58) and a in a half (20) and tied the record for fewest allowed in a quarter (5).
The Bulls did most of their damage in the paint with Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng leading the way on offense and Joakim Noah leading the team on defense. Korver couldn't slow Deng who just power drive into the lane using his strength to go straight through him repeatedly to score. Boozer connected on a wide array of shots, and the Bulls offense start off slow but found its rhythm.
The Hawks looked as frustrated as you'd expect a team to look when they can't throw the ball in the ocean. Devin Harris committed a flagrant foul just shoulder tackling a mid air Kirk Hinrich in what was an extremely dangerous play [fortunately Kirk was fine]. The play showed the last sign of life out of a Hawks team which more or less just ran out the clock afterwards with little effort.
Perhaps the only disappointing note of the night for fans was Deaquon Cook missing a three on the Bulls final shot attempt that would have given away free Big Macs to the crowd [hint McDonalds/Duncan Donuts will honor the coupons whether you really win or not, just saying].
2-2 in the past four isn't surprising
I frequently look ahead at the schedule while doing my podcast and try to project what I think a good goal for the following week will be. I remember looking at one point and seeing: Milwaukee, @New York, Phoenix, Atlanta and thinking 2-2 seems like a fair goal for these four games. Two teams the Bulls should be underdogs against and two they should be favorites.
Of course, the Bulls go 2-2 winning the games I figured they'd lose and losing the games I'd figure they'd win. Without Derrick Rose, Chicago goes through stretches where it simply can't score. The Bulls frequently rely on long two point shots which is no way to run an efficient offense. They don't do this because Thibodeau is stupid, but because it's what most good defenses will allow if you don't have a player dynamic enough to create something better on his own.
Chicago attempts to get things going in the paint with their big men, but they're only so-so effective at it depending on the match up and the game. Against Phoenix, the Bulls repeatedly attempted to get things going in the paint, but they were simply got stripped, blocked, turned it over, or simply missed on the majority of their attempts.
Basketball is a game of streaks as well. Sometimes when you play, you're on. Sometimes you're off. Same goes with your opponent. When Chicago is off, they're one of the most off teams in the NBA since they lack the guy who can bail them out, and without anyone who can create easy shots they're more likely to be off than most teams.
Their defense and rebounding can frequently bail them out of off games anyway, but it should be no surprise when the team throws up a sub 40% shooting night regardless of the opponent and when you can't hit 40% of your shots, you can lose to anyone.
True road warriors?
The Bulls start a two game road trip on Wednesday before coming home for four. Afterwards they'll play 24 road games vs 16 home games the rest of the way. Chicago has played well on the road thus far (10-5), but if they want to continue their run towards a good seed in the East they'll need to prove this isn't a fluke.
Fortunately for Chicago, the East doesn't feel so tough anymore. If Derrick Rose is able to come back and play well, then Chicago might still have an outside shot at the #1 seed and will at worst be competing for the #3 seed. If he doesn't come back and play well, then it's more or less irrelevant where they end up anyway as they won't make it out of the second round without quality play from Derrick Rose.
Filed under: Game Threads