Bench Mob Tossed Hawks in the Trunk to Take a Ride in Game 5

Bench Mob Tossed Hawks in the Trunk to Take a Ride in Game 5

The Bulls' 93-85 win in Game 5 over the Hawks gives them a strong 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

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After a 13-5 Hawks run put them up 64-63 -- their first lead of the night -- toward the end of the third quarter, Tom Thibodeau sent his most aggressive weapons off the bench to shut them down. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, and Ronnie Brewer -- with Luol Deng and Derrick Rose -- did just that for the entire fourth quarter to win 95-83. The Bulls now lead the seven-game series 3-2, going into Game 6 in Atlanta, where they can clinch their Eastern Conference Finals berth.

Shorter shifts for the Bulls in the mid-game allowed for the perfect combination of aggressive help defense without sacrificing the motion in their offense which doesn't force Rose to be Everyman. They shot a high percentage with great ball movement that came from greater off-ball movement. On the defensive end, the Hawks continued their Game 4-winning strategy of moving off the ball into slots opened by the Bulls' spatial rotations, but the Bulls running the floor so well with the ball eventually gassed Atlanta to attack so efficiently on offense.
Down 70-69 with over ten minutes remaining in the game, the Bulls went on a 9-0 run with Omer and Taj shutting down the inside to ignite transition for easy buckets on the other end. Leading 78-70 with 8:29 remaining, the Bulls never turned back, as Thibs stuck with the two anchoring the frontcourt and Joakim Noah with Carlos Boozer leading the emphatic cheers from the bench.

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"It was the way the game unfolded and the matchups we had," Thibs said after the game of his fourth quarter lineup. "It kind of forced our hand a little bit."

yfBB gave Thibs the deserved credit of unleashing the strong weapon (Blog-a-Bull):

Despite that reputation, he's also shown an ability at times this year to ride hot lineups, and tonight's 4th quarter provided the most dramatic and important example of that yet. Rose/Brewer/Deng/Gibson/Asik is actually not that uncommon of a combination, per 82Games.com, it's the 8th most-used lineup this season. But considering that (unlike most of the season) Boozer and Noah are healthy now, Kyle Korver has been their most prolific 4th-quarter option outside of Rose, and it's the Playoffs...what a move by Thibodeau to not only start this group up a single point entering the biggest quarter in the series, but to stick with it for nearly the entire period.

Rose is a beast, a killer, an elite player, one of the best in the game, an MVP winner, but the Bulls had the winningest regular season in the NBA this season because of Coach of the Year Thibs' defense and the depth of talent compiled for him by co-Executive of the Year Gar Forman. Game 5, like all other dominant Bulls wins, made this evident. And it's what makes them a force with which to be reckoned every night.
Put the best two-guard in the league on the Bulls and their second-best offense is still that which is created by their great defense. That's a fact.
  • Thibs pretty much knows he out-coached Larry Drew and said so without directly saying so, you know? He got all meta wit' it in the postgame on the "chippiness" of the players on the court, with a bigger message that he's comfortable in any chess game against Drew: "It's Game 5, five straight games against the same opponent. They know everything we're doing. We know everything they're doing. It's a fight. you gotta' be able to get through it. They're a hard-playing team. We like to think we're a hard-playing team."
  • Both teams moved well off the ball, made smart passes, were aggressive with good looks and lanes; and therefore, shot well. The Bulls just made excellent recovery efforts on shooters, which Deng, Brewer, and Bogans forced tough spots while defending 1-on-1. The Hawks shot 47.9% (34-for-71), but only 1-for-12 on 3s (8.4%), and the Bulls weren't overly aggressive to foul, only sending Atlanta to shoot FTs at a 23.9% rate (14-for-17 in the low-possession game).

    On the other end, the Bulls shot a strong 48.7% (35-for-72), but not all buckets are created equal. The Bulls shot bade, but a tad better on 3s (4-for-14, 28.6%) for a much better .514 eFG% to the Hawks' .491 and got to the FT line at a dominant 38.9% rate (21-for-28, which would be good for an average-possession game). That's the difference between the Bulls hyper-aggressive 16-for-27 at the rim and the Hawks pulling back late to only finish 15-for-18 at the rim.

    "We were able to get the penetration, get the ball into the paint," Thibs said, later adding, with a ton of accolades for Rose's aggressiveness: "I thought we got the ball up the floor quicker today -- which I thought was important."

  • Thibs on the fourth quarter explosion: "It's the playoffs, so you're gonna be in tight quarters. you gotta' be comfortable being uncomfortable. I thought that we hung tough, played together, got some timely baskets, and we got some stops.... [The Hawks] spread you out. You gotta' be able to contain the ball in and still be able to get out to their shooters."
  • Deng X-Factor'd all over the Hawks. He was about as aggressive off the ball as you want him to be, making him about as dangerous as he can be. Rose led the Bulls with 33 points on 11-for-24, got to the line often to shoot 10-for-13, shot only 1-for-5 on 3-pointers, but added nine assists with only two turnovers -- facing a ton of aggressive, well-executed traps the entire night. Deng adding 23 points on 8-for-18 -- 4-for-6, three assisted, within nine feet -- on top of three assists, forced the Hawks to be more alert with third and fourth efforts, recovering to the offensive threat, and Deng made them fail.
  • Rose's passing out of traps and his teammates making great second passes kept this game unwinnable for Atlanta. A great example was this dish to Boozer -- who struggled to get 11 points on 4-for-11, only 3-for-8 at the rim:

    And a great second pass from Noah (six rebounds, four assists, 27 min.) to an alert Keith Bogans -- who had an awesome fullcourt game (11 points on 4-for-7, 3-for-5 on 3s, 24 min.) -- cutting through a hole on the weak-side to exploit the Hawks' recovery problems, after they committed to Rose's side of the floor:

  • Taj and Omer owned the paint. Taj's 11 points on 5-for-5 and one block in 20 minutes was a pure mix of talent, energy, IQ, and confidence. Omer's defense demoralized the Hawks' effort to get to the basket. He finished with four rebounds and a block in 20 minutes, but the Hawks shot 31% in the fourth quarter largely because Omer's D forced them to go back their stupid jumpshots.... And, of course:
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    Watch Omer step laterally from the high post with Josh Smith's steps and explode to the basket with Smith's move. Amazing, intelligent, aggressive, fearless defense that never took him out of position to recover from the help until Smith committed to a shot:

  • Rose's ankle was had the same defensive limits, but he's exploding forward as well as he would any other night. Jeff Teague is something to watch with his speed, aggressiveness, fearlessness, and intelligence. He can't guard Rose, but with help, did his part well on the traps and exploited Rose's lateral movement limits to score 21 points on 8-for-11 -- 5-for-5 at the rim.

    But when the Bulls' defense is stopping and icing Atlanta to a .229 offensive rebounding rate, Rose took the opportunity to push the ball up the court and blow by everyone on both teams with explosive speed:

    And in the halfcourt, he showed his ankles are definitely good to bait Teague, break his ankles, and step back for a sweet jumper:

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  • Bogans is shooting a monstrous team-high .651 eFG% in the playoffs. His 5.6 PPG and .442 FG% are trite to the point they're useless numbers because his usage is such a low 11%, while 36 of his 43 FGAs are 3s. Shooting .500 on 3s (T-4th in NBA playoffs), no one is scoring more points-per-floor-shot in the rotation as Bogans,  whose also 8th in total 3s made (18). For comparison, Kyle Korver is shooting .486 on 35 3PAs for a .529 eFG% (Basketball-Reference).
  • Booz continues to bring it on the boards. In only 29 minutes, he grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds at a 28.9% rate. With four on the offensive end, his ORR and DRR were both also game-highs, at 18.9% and 37.5%, respectively.

    His misses looked horrible and his side was usually the one where Hawks were cutting to the basket, as Josh Smith (16 points on 6-for-14, seven rebounds) went 5-for-6 at the rim on top of Teague's aggressiveness. But what he takes away from the help, he can add in making the misses pay off by easing that rebounding pressure from helpers making multiple efforts.

  • Al Horford played possum again. After an aggressive Game 4, he grabbed a team-high ten rebounds, but he not only just finished with 12 points on 6-for-13, he shot 5-for-10 on long-2s. That's a great percentage on long jumpers, but that's a starting center on a team that shoots too much. The Bulls can live with that volume.
  • Joe Johnson (15 points on 6-for-15, 1-for-5 on 3s, 41 min.) couldn't get the ball and had his 3s contested. He doesn't move aggressively enough off the ball to get and the Bulls' wing players were denying him well. With Korver only playing four minutes, there were always people to check Johnson and Jamal Crawford (two points on 1-for-9, 27 min.) into irrelevancy.
Game 6 will be played in Atlanta on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. If the Bulls don't close it out, Game 7 will be in Chicago on Sunday -- time to be determined.
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