It wasn’t the prettiest of performances from the Chicago Bulls, but it didn’t matter on Wednesday night as they were able to even up their series with the Atlanta Hawks, en route to a 86-73 win at the United Center.
It was a story very similar to what we’ve seen from the Bulls throughout these playoffs, with inconsistent play, but with their defense coming up big at the right moments to seal the deal.
The big change from Game 1 was the lack of production from Atlanta’s Joe Johnson. Johnson killed the Bulls in Game 1, going for 34 and shooting perfect from beyond the three-point line. On Wednesday, he was much quieter, dropping just 16 on the Bulls, along with just 11 points from Jamal Crawford.
There was also another poor performance from Josh Smith, whose poor shot selection opened up plenty of opportunities for the Bulls, as many thought it might.
On the Bulls side, all eyes were on Derrick Rose, who was in the middle of a ceremony prior to the game in which David Stern presented the MVP with his trophy in front of the hometown crowd. And while his first half performance was MVP-worthy, it was clear that Rose still isn’t completely healthy.
Having injured his ankle twice in this series, Rose has lost some of that touch on his drive ability. The Hawks are completely aware of that now, forcing Rose to hit the jumpers and the shots from the outside. His shooting touch was off in the second half, with just nine points coming from Rose in the game’s latter half. He shot just 10 of 27 on the night and has drawn many critics as a result of that.
But it’s not as if his teammates were lighting up the scoreboard and giving him options to dish to. It was another poor showing for Carlos Boozer, who isn’t completely healthy with his turf toe injury, scoring just eight points to go along with 11 rebounds on the night.
Even Luol Deng wasn’t the sharpshooter he was in Game 1, shooting 6-13 for 14 points. The only guy who really seemed to bring his game for the full 60 was Joakim Noah, who finished the night with 19 points and 14 rebounds, bringing that intensity that the Bulls are going to need as they progress through the playoffs.
It’s strange to think that the Bulls have now won five of the seven games they’ve played in these playoffs, but they have yet to put together a really solid performance, with maybe the exception of Game 5 against Indiana. Rose has already said things are going to change moving forward, and we can only hope that it means less shots and more dimes for the MVP.