Victories in Game 1's don't always mean that things are going to be easy. Especially against a good defensive team like Chicago. The Bulls were the desperate team tonight and it showed with their play as they outworked the Hawks to an 86-73 victory. Derrick Rose was good for the Bulls finishing with 25 points and 10 assists but I thought it was the play of Joakim Noah, 19 points and 14 rebounds, that set the tone for Chicago in the game. The Hawks shot the ball well in Game 1 but they also came up with every key rebound and loose ball that they needed to keep the Bulls at bay. That wasn't the case in Game 2 and a great deal of that Noah was responsible for.
I thought Atlanta came out running the motion more than normal but it quickly went away the moment they fell behind except for a few set plays during the second half. With the Hawks trailing by double figures throughout a lot of this game, I wondered out loud where they would be if not for the play of Jeff Teague. Teague finished with team high 21 points on 7-14 shooting. Teague also made 6-7 attempts from the free throw line and looked like the best player on the floor for Atlanta throughout several stretches in the game.
Joe Johnson finished with 16 points on 7-15 shooting but drew much more attention from the Chicago defense than he did in Game 1. The Bulls routinely sent a second defender Johnson's way anytime he put the ball on the floor and Atlanta couldn't make them pay with Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford all having sub par shooting nights. Against a team like Chicago, it is really hard to ask Johnson to facilitate the offense and to score on the same play. Whether it was by design or not, that was the route the Hawks went for much of the second half.
I don't need to tell anyone that has watched this team regularly that when Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford combine to shoot 9-36 from the field, the Hawks are going to have a hard time winning. Horford's 14 rebounds and six assists look good but he absolutely couldn't make a shot when the Hawks needed it. Jamal Crawford once again showed the dangers in playing him when he can't make a shot and Josh Smith had one of the worst games he has had in sometime despite four big blocks in the second half when Atlanta was able to cut into the lead.
Derrick Rose ended up with 25 points and 10 assists but also finished with eight turnovers. Jeff Teague seemed to have a better chance at guarding him although I don't have the numbers to back up that claim. However, it was Jamal Crawford that drew the assignment down the stretch leaving Teague to chase Kyle Korver. The thinking is that Teague is perhaps better at running over screens than Crawford and in theory Crawford can lay off far enough to keep Rose in front of him while still having the length to get a hand in his face on a jump shot. That is when Crawford remembers to throw a hand up. It is debatable that Crawford deserves such opportunities when he isn't having a positive impact offensively.
It almost felt like that Josh Smith's poor offensive night carried over to the defensive side of the floor. He did come up with those four big blocked shots and played better late but he got beat for offensive rebounds by Noah several times where it just looked like he got outworked. Smith doesn't deserve all of the blame but Atlanta needs more than six rebounds from him especially when the Bulls are coming up with 14 offensive boards.
Atlanta shot the ball poorly and rebounded even worse. It is hard for any team to shoot 34% and get out rebounded 58-39 to have a chance to win. Yet the Hawks were able to cut a 14 point Chicago lead down twice but just couldn't get enough high quality looks to get any closer. Atlanta did their job stealing Game 1 and now must hold serve at home. Rose was good but still shot the ball poorly and turned the ball over a lot. Had the Hawks been able to control Noah, then this game would likely have been a lot closer.
Outlook For Game 3
Atlanta was able to get away with Jamal Crawford guarding Derrick Rose for stretches in Game 1 but it didn't work as well in Game 2. It appears that Jeff Teague probably needs that assignment whether or not Kyle Korver is in the game. Speaking of Korver, Atlanta needs to look to attack him offensively when he is in the game because he will have a difficult time matching up with Johnson, Crawford, or Teague. The entire offense could use a little more organization but I am probably just spitting into the wind at this point in the season. At any rate, Atlanta can't win this series if they don't figure out a way to get more contributions from Al Horford and Josh Smith. The Bulls are just going to load up on Joe Johnson the rest of the way and will force someone else to beat them. Getting Horford off early and Smith a little closer to the paint needs to be a priority heading into Game 3.
Atlanta can't be disappointed after splitting the two games in Chicago. They accomplished their goal and was playing with house money in Game 2 so to speak. Now it is time to protect home court.