On a night when Carlos Boozer finally found his scoring touch, the Chicago Bulls got the most “point guard” performance out of their MVP phoneme, Derrick Rose. Rose had his lowest scoring game in the Bulls-Hawks series with 19 points, but also dished out 12 assists, his highest number in the playoffs, in what was Chicago’s finest defensive effort in the post season, much to Thibodeau’s liking.
This series was about first quarters, at least that is what the numbers say. The team that led after the first quarter ended, won each game. The Bulls led by 10 after the first 12 minutes (27-17) and it wasn’t Derrick Rose’s brilliance that led them. It was the bigs. Noah and Boozer showed up and dominated with great defense and agression on the offensive side, scoring 22 of the Bulls’ first 27.
The Hawks didn’t mount a comeback. Jeff Teague, who surprised many with his performances in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich, fell on his hand early on and struggled to create any impact in his 22 minutes, finishing with 4 points. Someone said that the Hawks will go as far as Joe Johnson will take them – 19 points for Johnson on a bad shooting night wasn’t good enough. Josh Smith added 18, but the rest of the Hawks couldn’t handle and find a way through the Bulls defense.
Derrick Rose didn’t force himself on the game this time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good for the Bulls plenty of times that Rose makes it all about him. Last night it wasn’t. The Bulls made 41 field goals, 34 of them were off assists. Carlos Boozer finished with 5. The Hawks gave Rose the usual attention, but this time the rest of the Bulls and especially Carlos Boozer flourished.
Rose led the fast break perfectly, and as the Hawks usually go, the game started slipping away in the third quarter and the team slowly faded away as well as their ‘loyal fans’. The Hawks don’t come back. They either lead or stick around as long as its tight and close. They just don’t have the mental toughness, or at least not enough players on the team have it, to stick through the bad times. Right now, I don’t see anyway for this team to get over the Conference Semi Final hump.
On to the Heat series – Chicago beat the Heat every time this regular season. They won’t sweep them, no one is even thinking that. The Heat have evolved as a team, especially defensively, and are too good right now to be looking at the regular season. Getting over an obstacle such as the Boston Celtics meant so much for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Who knows how much of a mental push they got from winning the series.
The Bulls are a better defensive team than the Celtics. They have a better defensive coach. I don’t know how the Heat can handle Derrick Rose. A lot is up to the way LeBron James helps and adjusts to the best point guard in the league. Now with Boozer, maybe over his funk and ready to bring more than 11 points a game, Chris Bosh will have another huge battle down low. He did well against Garnett. Chicago’s inside game is just as tough, probably even more.