A loss like this would hurt a lot more in May instead of March, but it still qualifies as a stomach punch game for the Bulls. If the goal is to get a top playoff seed, blowing an 18-point halftime lead on the road isn't recommended. Derrick Rose had arguably his worst game of the year, going 5-21 from the field and 0-6 from distance, plus 6 turnovers. The simple fact is, this is Rose's team plus a group of good to very good players that play well together. Without a second superstar, Chicago's fate remains tied to Rose's performance on a nightly basis. The good news is, that will win a lot of basketball games. The bad news is, right now the Bulls success is predicated on the play of one person.
The Bulls pay Carlos Boozer $15+ million dollars a year to put up 20 points, 10 rebounds and to be the go-to guy when the offense breaks down. Playing suspect defense and averaging 16 and 7 over his last ten games isn't going to get it done for Chicago. When Derrick Rose has the rare off-night, the Bulls need Boozer to be the veteran leader that gets a basket when the team most needs it. Instead, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have become options 2a and 2b lately, while Boozer has been a 3rd option who gets a few plays called for him early on.
Deng played well, hitting three big three-pointers, however he once again logged 40+ minutes. If the Bulls do sign Rasual Butler as has been reported, Deng should get some much-needed rest. Noah had a very active game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, as did rookie Omer Asik, who had 9 rebounds in 14 minutes and made multiple hustle plays. Management has to be very happy that they held onto him at the trade deadline.
Al Horford was a monster for the Hawks and almost single-handedly won it for Atlanta with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Kirk Hinrich played as Bulls fans might remember, leaving the stat sheet empty but playing shutdown defense all night. He guarded Rose as well as anyone has this year.
Gut punch that this game may have been, It is only one game. Chicago had been playing its best basketball prior to tonight's second half meltdown, and have a history of bouncing back from losses this season. They must rebound from this one quickly though, as fellow MVP candidate Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic await the Bulls on Friday night.