Unless you had a rooting interest in the Chicago Bulls, it is unlikely you enjoyed tonight's 86-73 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center. The defense was spectacular at times, but the offense on both ends was putrid. Lucky for the Bulls, theirs stunk less and their defense and rebounding ensured a relatively comfortable victory.
After being out-rebounded in Game 1, it's clear that Tom Thibodeau emphasized that phase of the game. The Bulls absolutely destroyed the Hawks on the glass 58-39, which does as much to illustrate the rebounding disparity as it does show how many shots went awry.
Derrick Rose, after receiving the Most Valuable Player award from commissioner David Stern during a pre-game ceremony, played as well as one could expect from an injured player who makes his hay attacking the rim. Rose was relegated to jumpshots for most of the game, finishing with 25 points on 27 shots, including 1-8 from downtown. Improved as he may be, there's no denying that Rose is a streaky shooter from the outside. His efficiency comes from going to the line ten times a game, something he is struggling to do as he avoids the paint. The good news is that he didn't seem to re-injure his ankle at any point during the game, and his teammates picked up enough of the slack to secure the win.
Joakim Noah played his best game of the playoffs, putting forth multiple efforts on possession after possession. He finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, including 7-8 from the free throw line and seven offensive rebounds. His energy was tireless and provided crucial second chances that the Bulls didn't have in Monday's Game 1.
Luol Deng, after fading late in games this postseason due to fatigue (43.1 MPG), saved up enough to get the Bulls over the hump in the fourth quarter. His two late hoops and four rebounds ended up being the crucial plays as the Hawks made one last run before fading away. Deng's 14 points were huge, but his 12 boards and stifling defense on Joe Johnson were the main difference. After scoring 34 points in Game 1, Johnson had only 16 points.
In a paragraph that must seem like I've copied and pasted it from recaps past, Carlos Boozer struggled once again. It's getting ugly for Boozer, as he is now being booed when he enters games and cheered when taken out. He finished with eight points and 11 boards, which Thibodeau made a point to praise after the game. Boozer is playing through pain right now with a turf toe injury, but Taj Gibson's stellar defense and similar rebounding numbers have many fans calling for Boozer's demotion. Ultimately, Chicago will need both players to advance in the Playoffs, so struggle as he may, Boozer needs to be out on the court trying to re-establish his rhythm.
Thank god for the Hawks, who have collectively never seen a contested jumper they didn't like. The only player who consistently attacked the Bulls' defense was emergency starter Jeff Teague, who more than held his own by leading the Hawks with 21 points. Marvin Williams, Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith combined to go 8-33 from the floor, and a few times the long rebounds sprung the Bulls for desperately-needed transition points. After the game Thibodeau mentioned wanting to increase the pace, and the reason is obvious. The Bulls are struggling to score consistently in the half-court and pushing the transition game should help Chicago's efficiency.
In all, it seemed like a game the Bulls wanted to win, but moreover a game the Hawks were content to lose. As such, Chicago will need to continue to make corrections, because this is still not a team clicking on all cylinders. Against tougher competition, or even against the Hawks on a better night, the Bulls could very well have lost again. With the layoff between games down to 48 hours, the Bulls need to hope Rose is as fast a healer as he is on the court. Without him attacking the basket and providing a consistent inside-out threat, the Bulls are really going to struggle on offense.
The series moves to Atlanta on Friday night at Phillips Arena, where the Bulls will try to regain homecourt advantage by taking at least one of the next two games.
Follow Zachary Lee on Twitter @rightfieldsucks