I’ve got to say, I wasn’t much of a believer in the Atlanta Hawks at the beginning of the postseason. Yes, I do realize that they did one heck of a job finishing off Dwight Howard and the Miami Heat on the first round, but it didn’t seem like things would go so smooth against the Chicago Bulls. For starters, the Hawks were going to play their opening game in the Windy City and not only did the Bulls had home court advantage but were a team guided by the coach of the year, Tim Thibodeau, but also for the regular season’s MVP, Derrick Rose.
Perhaps we weren’t expecting the Hawks’ Joe Johnson to finish the night with 34 points, 4 boards and 3 assists to guide the Hawks in a 103-95 win against the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. He was having a great night. Johnson hit 12-of-18 for the night and connected all of his five shots from behind the three-point arch. Even more important to the Hawks win, he was right on target when his team needed him most. In the third quarter he Hawks found themselves down 69-65. Pressure was groing and Rose was starting to get his game going. The Hawks needed to react soon if they were going to survive the Bulls.
The reaction came quickly. The Hawks went on a 15-2 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to turn a 4-point deficit into an 80-71 lead with 10:27 remaining on the game. During that run Johnson scored 8 of the Hawks’ 15 points. Things were going very well for Larry Dew’s team. The head coach knew that not only Johnson was playing brilliantly, but his support cast was chipping in. Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, and Jeff Teague added 10. Extra kudos for Teague who has filled in the hole left by injured starting guard Kirk Hinrich. He had such a good game that coach Dew finally gave him the game ball to recognize his good performance.
It wasn’t a great night for the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose scored 24 points. It wasn’t that bad of a game for the MVP but consideringhe was just 11-of-27 from the field and did not attempt a free throw, he wasn’t the player the Bulls need him to be if they want to win another Championship.
Luol Deng scored 21 points for Chicago and Carlos Boozer added 14 points and eight rebounds. Boozer has been playing with a turf toe injury on his right foot. It’s still hard to say where things went wrong for the Bulls. If I were pushed for an answer I would say it was in defense where Chicago looked weakest. The Atlanta Hawks were resilient against the Bulls defense, shooting 51.3 percent for the night, and 53.8 from behind the 3-point arch.
Towards the end of the game, Derrick Rose stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot and limped away with an injury on his left ankle, the same one that had given him issues in the first round series against the Indiana Pacers. And x-ray revealed that it was ok and that he could probably play on game 2. Still, it’s a big question and a huge factor on whether the Bulls can ultimately successfully reach the conference final.