The Chicago Bulls used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from the Hawks, on their way to a 95-83 win on Tuesday. They now have a 3-2 advantage in this second round series, and stand just one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. The biggest surprise from this game wasn't that the Bulls went on that run in the fourth quarter, but rather the lineup that put it together. It wasn't Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer that did most of the damage, but rather reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, even Rose didn't see those contributions coming.
"I was kind of surprised," Rose said of the lineup. "But they gave us a lot of energy, making hustle plays, stealing the ball, blocking shots, rebounding. They did everything we wanted them to do. This is a team thing. When guys come in, they have to play as good as the starters. And they did that."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't quite as surprised as Rose.
"This is great," Thibodeau said. "We've prepared ourselves all season for moments like this. The playoffs are like this. They're hard-fought, a grind. You have to overcome things."
The guys over at Blog a Bull recognize that this was the best defensive lineup that the team could put out on the floor, and that they really clamped down on the Hawks in that final frame.
The Bulls outscored Atlanta 26-15 in that 4th quarter, led first by their incredible defensive play. Outside of Rose it's a lineup that has the best and most active defensive options on roster. Even when putting Asik over Noah, I'd say that Asik+Taj is better complementary defensive tandem than Noah+Taj, with Asik providing better post defense and taking up space allowing Taj to better hedge around the court. And with Brewer and Deng at the 2-3, they can fairly successfully bottle up Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford.
When gameplanning against the Bulls, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik probably aren't the first two guys you think might impact the game. But it was those two that helped the Bulls come away with a win in this one.