Winning the 'Must-Win' Game 2 Wasn't Pretty, But the Bulls Won

Winning the 'Must-Win' Game 2 Wasn't Pretty, But the Bulls Won

The Bulls tied up the second round series with the Hawks 1-1 with an 86-73 win in Game 2 at the United Center.

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The Bulls' defense and rebounding came back in full force to pound an 86-73 win on the Hawks in Game 2 of the seven game series in the second round of the NBA Playoffs and tie the series 1-1.
There was 97 total rebounds in the game where neither team shot 40%. The Bulls were jumpshooting like crazy again (7-for-23 on long-2s, 30.5%; 5-for-22 on 3s, 34.1%) as were the Hawks (6-for-30 on long-2s, 30%; 3-for-13 on 3s, 34.7%). Both teams were so aggressive on defense that they were proportionately conserving on offense and the Bulls are adept at winning games of this sort because high offense energy by opponents is usually required to beat them.
The Bulls won with glue defense and rebounding. The help was lessened by the Hawks' lack of motion and everyone did their jobs to stay home on their man and the double teams were well-timed. The Hawks' eye-hurting 81.1 offensive efficiency was a two-team effort, as was the Bulls' 95.6. The game full of missed shots were routinely cleaned up by the Bulls over a Hawks team that finished 25th in rebounding rate over the season.
The Bulls dominated the glass to out-rebound the Hawks 58-39 with 18 second chance points on 14 offensive boards. The Bulls lost the turnover battle 13-12 -- giving up 12 points from them -- and were fortunate to kill the Hawks in the halfcourt because they also lost the free throw battle. Putting Atlanta on the line to shoot 18-for-24 (75%) is tolerable, but the Bulls only getting there to shoot 15-for-18 (83.4%) -- with under 20 FTAs for the second straight game of the series -- is unacceptable because it plays with some heat from the fire that burned them in the series opener.
Tom Thibodeau said after the game that the defense was "better," but wasn't satisfied with how the Bulls closed out quarters. He was most concerned with the turnovers and blocked shots that let Atlanta "get out into the open floor."
Derrick Rose said the ankle he sprained in Game 1 was fine and he led the Bulls with 25 points, though on an abysmal 10-for-27 shooting and only got to the line enough to shoot 4-for-6. More troubling was his continued lack of aggressiveness to push the ball inside, only going 4-for-6 at the rim with that too-low free throw rate. He moved the ball well and had much better timing on the pick n' roll with 10 assists, but incredibly sloppy passing had him finishing the game was a circus-esque eight turnovers.
Joakim Noah (19 points on 6-for-8, 7-for-8 on FTs, 14 rebounds, three steals) was a physical hustle machine. Zaza Pachulia only played eight minutes for the Hawks, matching up Al Horford (six points on 3-for-12, 14 rebounds, six assists in 44 minutes) and Josh Smith (13 points on 4-for-14, 5-for-7 on FTs, four blocks, six rebounds in 36 minutes) as his competition around the rim and Noah dominated the Atlanta frontcourt on both ends like a hero.
Luol Deng (14 points on 6-for-13, 12 rebounds) achieved his task of containing Joe Johnson (16 points on 7-for-15, 1-for-2 on FTs, 1-for-3 on 3s, five steals in 42 minutes) to the point where Jamal Crawford (11 points on 2-for-10, 6-for-6 on FTs in 35 minutes), Jeff Teague (21 points on 7-for-14, 6-for-7, three steals), and the Atlanta frontcourt was forced to win Game 2. Teague was impressive again, but Johnson was denied by Deng like a brick wall, couldn't get space in isolation, and Deng's recovery routinely disrupted his timing to catch n' shoot.
Carlos Boozer (eight points on 4-for-12, 11 rebounds) had a rough game, but it wasn't for lack of hustle. Atlanta's ball movement and motion stifled by the team defense aided Boozer to not have to have too many decision with his feet. He manned up and challenged shots about as well as one could ask and used his body to establish positioning for rebounds, as his body -- south of the chins -- were just not allowing him to jump with power.
Because of this, he couldn't finish strong, but going 3-for-8 at the rim was a showing of him being more aggressive. You'd like to see that aggressiveness with his elite offensive footwork when the feet are working properly again. When (if?) his turf toe is healed, he'll abuse defenses down low in the way that amazed us from late-December until he sprained his ankle in early-March.
  • Thibs on Noah: "He was terrific. High energy, multiple effort, great screening, solid defense, reacted well to the boards, was quick, got to the line, amde free throws. I think he had a great multiple effort mentality to start the game."
  • Thibs on Boozer: "Carlos is giving us everything that he has." He said that in response to an incredibly valid point raised by Jason Goff of 670 The Score -- that Boozer may be more hurt that he's letting on and it isn't the Boozer "we're used to seeing."

    Thibs added: "He's knicked up, but he's playing hard. he's on the boards. The rebounding's huge. We need that rebounding. The offense will come around."

  • Thibs on the team defense: "I think our defense was pretty good for the most part -- getting back and getting set. I didn't like it at the end of the third [quarter], where we allowed them to have that [8-2] run [over the final 2:31].

    "You gotta be up on 'em [the Hawks]. They get goin' early, they're hard to slow down. But I thought we had the right mindset; we had a multiple effort mentality. And I thought we did a good job of finishing our defense tonight."

  • Thibs on Rose's turnovers: "He's a risk-taker, but that's the way he has to play. We want him to be aggressive. Most nights his turnovers are low. We know, on the road, we gotta' take better care of the ball."

    This is the dirty secret of Rose's inefficiencies. They're a result of the high-risk demanded of him. Sometimes, you just have to ask: compared to what?

  • Deng said after the game that he wanted to force Johnson to need to be more than a shooter. "I was more into him," he said. "I wanted to make him more of a drive. I know my help is there. I didn't really give him a lot of space."
    deng jj joejohns uc.jpg


    He added sympathy for the pain Boozer is enduring by playing with turf toe; and that the Bulls know the Hawks can get buckets, so they're confident their own offense will come with strong defense. (God, I love this team.)

  • Noah quickly picked up Goff's inference about the the energy life from Taj Gibson's presence with a strong defense of Boozer: "We're a team and I think it's very hard sometimes. Sometimes our home crowd [makes the United Center] a tough place to play.[...] I feel like I've been in a position before -- my rookie year -- when I've been booed and it's tough to be booed in front of your home crowd. [...]

    "With Carlos, people have to understand that he's playing through an injury right now and he's givin' us all he's got. He's someone who's got an unbelievable presence and he opens up a lot of things for a lot of us. I think -- sometimes -- people are quick to bash one player, but this is a team and we need Carlos to get to where we wanna go. Taj is doing an excellent job, but we need everybody."

  • Noah on the glass domination, including his seven offensive boards: "We were more aggressive.[...] There were more boards to be had [because of their defense]."

    Noah on his offense: "I don't get a lot of plays run for me. Derrick finds me and I get a lot of garbage down there [grabbing rebounds]."

  • Good to not have a dire need for the Bench Mob. That means the starters built leads and forced opposing stars and go-to guys to expend energy. The bench's defense was strong, though the offense was as bad as the rest of the team, but Thibs rotated the starters in and out well enough to not allow the the Hawks' high-volume players to exploit the second unit.
  • My God, Kyle Korver (five points on 1-for-9, 1-for-5 on 3s in 18 minutes). Bad game. Variance is a bitch.
  • Taj's hustle was an awesome advantage for loose balls. He grabbed five rebounds in only 16 minutes. Three were offensive and he kept possessions alive very well with back-tapping bricks to the perimeter.
  • Rose lacked instant explosion to take off, but stopped on a dime at the baseline regularly like this:

    I'm not sure what to make of that. Clearly, he isn't as "fine as he says he is, but if he's crafty and fast enough -- fast being different from quick or agile -- it's good. He did receive his MVP award before the game. Here's some Trophy Porn for your desktop wallpaper:

    drose mvp uc.jpg
This wasn't an easy game to watch and you want to see the Bulls pound the paint and get to the line for easier points. All buckets aren't created equal and the Hawks play as if they don't understand this, so forcing them into a game of 21-foot jumpers should be exploited by more penetration and post-ups to develop the inside-out 3-point game as a stronger option.
Game 3 will be played Friday at 6:00 p.m. CST in Atlanta and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Advanced Stats via Hoopdata.

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