If someone told you that the Atlanta Hawks would leave the Windy City with a split in the first two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Chicago Bulls, one would figure most Hawks fans would be happy. But with how bad the Bulls played in Game 2, Atlanta's performance in this one seems like an opportunity lost.
Derrick Rose picked up the MVP award before the game and lead all scorers with 25 points as the Bulls coasted to an ugly 86-73 win over the Hawks on Wednesday night at the United Center.
Joakim Noah netted 19 points and grabbed 14 boards and Luol Deng poured in 14 and grabbed 12 rebounds for Chicago, which won despite shooting just 39-percent (33-for-84) from the field.
Of course, the Hawks were just plain worse in a sloppy game that lacked tempo and for most of the first three quarters lacked much of an inside game for Atlanta's basketball team. As a result, the series heads down to Atlanta knotted at 1-1.
Give the Bulls credit. They made the adjustment on Joe Johnson, who torched them for 34 points in Atlanta's 103-95 Game 1 upset. But instead of capitalizing inside on the double-team, the Hawks went into that complacent, lazy game that got them another tongue lashing from coach Larry Drew during a second quarter timeout.
Hawks fans know it all too well, it's either the "iso-Joe standaround" or the "iso-Joe get open and take a terrible shot," which allows for a rushed or out-of-ideal-position shot, and an easy Bulls rebound and transition bucket.
Drew reminded his team during a timeout caught on TNT that when they play like that they lose. And that's exactly what they did on Wednesday night.
Atlanta failed to go inside with any real authority until late in the third quarter, when they made the first of many late runs. They whittled a 14 point third quarter lead to within seven in the third, six in the fourth, but couldn't push any closer. It seemed like once Atlanta's basketball team made a run, not only did the Bulls respond, but the Hawks also reverted back to that chuck up a bad shot form that sunk them once again.
The lone Atlanta bright spot was the play of second-year point guard Jeff Teague. He had a Hawks-high 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field in his second game starting in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich.
The rest of the team shot a miserable 30-percent (19-for-63), "lead" by Marvin Williams (2-for-9), Al Horford (3-for-12) and Josh Smith (4-for-14).
Joe Johnson had 16 points and Smith had 13 for Atlanta, but J-Smoove crashed the boards just six times for the road team. Atlanta never fares well when Smith is not incredibly active on the glass and Wednesday night was no different.
Lead by Noah, Horford's former teammate at the University of Florida, the Bulls were simply more active on the glass, holding a 14-10 edge on the offensive boards and a commanding 58-39 advantage overall. That helped mask 14 Chicago turnovers and 10 blocked shots by Atlanta.
Carlos Boozer had eight points and 11 boards and Keith Bogans added six for the Bulls, who face off against the Hawks in Game 3 on Friday night at Philips Arena.