Hawks Shot Passive Bulls Out of the Gym to Steal Game 1

Hawks Shot Passive Bulls Out of the Gym to Steal Game 1

Despite homecourt advantage, the Bulls find themselves down 1-0 in their series against Hawks after losing 103-95 at the UC.

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The Hawks weren't given much of a chance to win a game in the seven-game series against the Bulls. Not only is Atlanta the underdogs against the #1 seed in the conference with the NBA-best overall record, but the Bulls shared the best record at home over the regular season (35-6) and won all three at the United Center in the first round. On Monday, the Hawks become only the second visiting team to win at the UC since Jan. 18 with their 103-95 shooting clinic win over the Bulls in Game 1 of this second round matchup to take away the favorite's homecourt advantage for the series.

Joe Johnson (34 points on 12-for-18, 5-for-5 on 3s in 45 minutes) just shot amazing. He couldn't miss no matter how much he dribbled, how much shot clock he killed, how long a Bulls had a hand in his face, how off-balanced he was forced to be. Jamal Crawford (22 points on 8-for-16, 2-for-4 on 3s in 35 minutes) followed suit off the bench to complete a largely three-guard lineup with starting point guard Jeff Teague (10 points on 5-for-11, five assists in 45 minutes).
Overall, the Hawks shot an insane .513 FG% (40-for-78) with highly efficient 3-point shooting (7-for-18, .539 3P%) for a mind-boggling .558 eFG% and 115.7 offensive rating. They contested enough shots well on the perimeter, but it was a combination of the Bulls being noticeably sluggish sand struggling with their second and third efforts on the team defense that were just disastrous.
"One [the Hawks] get going offensively, they're hard to stop," Tom Thibodeau said after the game. "We weren't challenging shots. We weren't staying keeping the ball in front. We were finishing our defense. Played low-energy offense. You can't do that -- not in the playoffs. They shot 56 [percent] in the first half. Crawford and Joe Johnson basically got wherever they wanted to go."
He added that he was "concerned" about slow starts -- the . "The first five minutes of the game are critical, last five of the second quarter, critical, first five of the third, and last five of the game.... That start of the game was poor in terms of ball pressure, in terms of challenging shots, in terms of showing help. There wasn't on aspect of the defense that was good and they're too good of a shooting team to play like that."
The Hawks jumped out of the gate to a 9-0 run, but only outscoring the Bulls 28-18 in the first quarter before the Bulls dominated the second quarter to only be behind 51-50 at the half. Chicago finally started getting consistent stops and creating buckets in the third, but collapsed on the wrong end of a 27-9 run starting mid-way through the quarter that would last around 16 minutes. The Bulls couldn't recover from that with an endgame execution that didn't have them stopping Hawks possessions, Atlanta shooting the lights out, and -- most importantly -- not getting to the FT line for better and shorter possessions.
Playoff basketball is largely won on the glass, at the line, and by taking care of the ball. The rebounding was almost even and neither team had turnover problems, but neither team got to the FT line much. The Bulls not dominating one of these categories handed the game over.
On the lack of FT shooting, Thibs said: "We have to take a look at that. I thought there were situations in which we settled. We have to attack more. We have to sustain our spacing through the second and third option. And we have to move the ball more."
Point to the Bulls' .446 FG% (37-for-83) all you want. They hit 8-of-18 3-pointers (.445 3P%) for a good-enough .494 eFG%, scoring a good-enough-to-win 95 points on 89 possessions (106.7 ORtg). The runs by Atlanta were more tangibly explained by the lack of aggression by the Bulls on the offensive end -- as that passive play stretched the floor.
  • The Bulls just simply won't win playoff games without being aggressive toward the basket. They need to get the ball inside to make space for their shooters for efficient open looks and force the defense to put them on the FT line.

    The Bulls .193 FT rate and massive amounts long-2-point shots (11-for-26, 42.4%) makes me wanna hurl, as it's a waste of shooting an .813 FT% (13-for-16). Deng (21 points on 8-for-12, 5-for-6 on FTs, six rebounds) and Joakim Noah (11 points on 3-for-7, 5-for-6 on FTs, nine rebounds) were the only Bulls who could get to the line at a high rate.

  • Meanwhile, Derrick Rose (24 points on 11-for-27, 10 assists, five rebounds, two steals) didn't get to the line once. Despite going a deceptively passive 4-for-9 at the rim, he went 2-for-6 on long-2s and 2-for-7 on 3s, and totaled a useless 5-for-14 outside of the paint. After going 19-for-21, 12-for-13, and 13-for-15 at the line in the first three games of the first round, Rose sprained his ankle in the first quarter of Game 4. Since, he's gone 2-for-4 and 6-for-7 before never getting there once on Monday.

    "If Rose can't get to the free throw line, this is going to be a series," Jeff Fogle wrote (Hoopdata). "If Rose continues to break down from the wear/tear/fatigue issues that come from sprinting into a lion's den to get mauled every night for four months (he started really attacking the rim around New Year's)...then top seeded Chicago might actually be in real trouble"

  • The Bulls need to find "the spark that drove them to look like the only caffeinated team in the NBA during the regular season," Kelly Dwyer wrote after the game (Ball Don't Lie). He's right. This is a talented bunch of guys on a very well generally managed roster with a hell of a coaching staff, but their scheme is demanding. It requires over-achieving to be efficient and requires efficiency to -- not just get by, but -- be dominant.
  • The Bulls didn't get the whistles; oh well, so what. They did take 30 attempts at the rim, but made only 15. There were missed whistles that makes their percentage look worse, but conceding to long-2s were certainly no answer. When they did get aggressive, the trailers simply weren't getting the offensive rebounds for the second chance points -- 12 on 10 offensive boards at a .256 rate -- on which the Bulls' offense thrives.
  • There wasn't a feeling the Bulls were out-tough-guy'd. The Hawks have some size, but the Bulls are noticeably bigger. The problem is that Noah and Carlos Boozer (14 points on 6-for-11, eight rebounds) aren't playing big-boy basketball at the same time. This allowed Al Horford (nine points, 13 rebounds) to not need much team rebounding help, allowing Josh Smith to help on the perimeter and show in ways hinder efficient slashing.

    Drawing the defense inside in the ways you want -- ways that have them only in position to at best foul the shooter -- requires more double threats on the inside. Noah and Boozer don't only have the strength advantage, but also pass the ball very well. Boozer's three assists involved a little interior passing and a good re-post spurt, but that needs to be his initiative on which to take with Noah moving intelligently off the ball and shooters spacing better.

    It was good to see this if Smith wants to try blocking everything, but there needs to be more. He's a very good defender and playmaker on both end, but if he begging to get postered by bigger guys and put himself in foul trouble, there needs to be more:

  • Credit Teague's patience on defense and Larry Drew's team defense scheme. Teague didn't get over-aggressive to give Rose chances to read him and stuck to the gameplan of staying under screens. Instead of trapping, the Hawks committed to aggressive ball denial -- by Smith, Horford, and Damien Wilkins.

    Rose is so amazing, not because he's so explosive to directly abuse any angle given to him, but because he seldom loses options by attacking. The Hawks committed to cutting off those options pretty well. Well enough to make Rose hestitate just within that margin of error that kills clock in a bad way and makes the offense too passive.

    I predicted Rose would smack Teague around. Despite the amazing athleticism, Teague was very impressive between the ears to D-up like a seasoned pro with years in the video room under his belt. Whether that discipline is sustainable through a seven-game series is yet to be known and not unfair to not expect, but kudos to the 22-year-old starting in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich; and it doesn't have to be the kudos J-Smoove looks like he plans to give Teague:

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  • More ball handlers need to run the offense at the point and high post. Teague has the speed and quickness to keep up with Rose off the ball, but the Bulls have an advantage with Deng, Noah, Boozer, Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and C.J. Watson all being good passers with good decision-making skills to distribute the ball. Thibs went to a Rose-Watson backcourt, but this was a bit foolish because of Atlanta's length on the perimeter. We'll need to see more players break down the positional walls to force Teague to make a high quantity of multiple decisions to better exploit him.
  • Kurt Thomas (two minutes) doesn't have a place in the series other than garbage time. Omer Asik (seven minutes) hasn't been very impressive for about a month now, but Kurt's physicality isn't needed so much and Omer's footwork needs to be on the floor and willing to participate.
  • Taj Gibson (two points on 1-for-3, two rebounds, three blocks) hustled his ass off on D, but disappeared on O. He only played 13 minutes, but he's a first-five-minute impact player. Longer shifts might be a high motivation for some, but Taj needs to be in constant motion to be effective. He's best around the basket on both ends, but unfortunately was only there on defense. Scoring isn't the problem, but boxing out and threatening the baseline and low post is necessary for the Bench Mob to disrupt the defense.
  • Thank you for shooting, Korver (nine points on 3-for-7, 3-for-4 on 3s,.two assists, two steals in 16 minutes for a game-high +17). The skills of Crawford and Johnson make Korver an odd man out. The steals were impressive and he was very aggressive. Crawford put him on roller skates, but he held his own and forced Crawford to just hit stupid-crazy shots.

    Like Thomas, it's tough to hide him on the floor, but you can't ice his value. This raises the value of getting out the leads and making them big early, so his playing time isn't forced. He's best in the second quarter with a cushion alongside Ronnie Brewer and the fourth with Deng and Noah helping him.

  • Brewer (six points in 14 minutes) and Bogans (three points, 16 minutes) need more time. Deng can't play 45 minutes every night of this series if it's going five or six games; and that's a serious threat. Brewer and Bogans got a lot of points scored on them, but played very well to make Crawford hit very tough shots he's rarely going to continue hitting, but won't stop trying.
  • Rose turned his ankle in the closing seconds of the game, but said he was "fine" after the game. Take that for what you will. Ironic that he was relatively conservative all game and turns his ankle showing a trap in garbage seconds:
  • Rose is the 2010-11 MVP, reporters were buzzing they heard from sources.
  • There was a pre-game presentation of Thibs' COY award before the AMERICAFUCKYEAH! stuff:
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Game 2 of the series will be played Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. CST at the UC. If you plan on attending any games anywhere between now and the end of the playoffs, be prepared; Osama bin Laden being alive dead brings about the necessity for hand-held metal detectors before entering:

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Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.

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