Home court advantage.
Derrick Rose told ESPN's Lisa Salters after the game that it "was all about defense", but what he meant to say was, "Dang, did you see what I did tonight? None of those boys could stop me!"
And he'd be right. On a night where Hawks fans could have been celebrating the 21 point on 8-13 shooting, 3 assist, 1 turnover night from Jeff Teague, instead they saw their second year guard fall a gaudy 23 point behind Rose, who scored from every spot on the floor except out of bounds---and only because he didn't try from there.
Rose got to the glass, faded away, shot the three---he had it all. With16-27 shooting, 7 assists, and only 2 turnovers, Rose was a one-man rally killer against the Hawks.
Yup, some of the same old, same old applied to the 56-43 first half where the Bulls gained control and didn't let up. Al Horford continued to display the same tentative attributes I highlighted earlier in the day, Josh Smith blocked out the arena full of doubters on his way to whiffing on all his outside shots, and nobody was keeping the Bulls off the offensive glass.
Chicago was "out-shot" by Atlanta only by virtue of the 2-D FG% category (47-46), but they had (9) more threes (10/20 vs 1/6), made as many free throws (15/18 vs. 15/25), and (4) more FGs, due in large part to the (18) offensive rebounds, largely gained by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (15 combined).
Every relevant Hawk was at fault...there as simply no physicality or determination regarding grinding for defensive boards. And if Horford or Smith had to turn their heads even slightly to check if Rose was storming towards the hoop, there was Noah and Gibson ready to slide into prime rebounding position.
In the second half, Josh asserted himself more around the hoop, and the impact was positive. There's no shame in his 17 point, 13 rebound night, except that it represented only a half's worth of work.
Horford seem to get his fire stoked after yet another soft layup attempt after a great feed pass got blocked, going stronger to the rack on a couple of plays after that. In the end, it was another inefficient 5-12 night and zero free throws.
The Hawks got a haymaker in on Chicago in Game 1, now the Bulls have swung back. One thing we know about this season's Atlanta team is that they have the memory of an NFL cornerback and that they will gear up, especially now that they have to, and strike back.
But they have given up the home court advantage gained through their opening game surprise attack, and the further you go in the playoffs, against better competition like Chicago, it's almost impossible to take that back.