Drink: Broken Toe
Is it too much to ask for the Bulls to close out this series convincingly and give us hope for the conference finals? Am I being too ungrateful for the Bulls actually having a chance to make the conference finals after years of futility? Was Deckard actually a replicant or was he human?
From the jump, the Bulls looked determined to right themselves on defense. The Bulls were covering well and ran a tight ship, except in one area: Jeff Teague. It is absolutely mind boggling how Rose was going above screens against a player without a respectable jumper and a killer cut to the hoop. Yet, this was the case early and throughout the game. The way to play Teague is off the ball. If he wants to take outside shots, let him, please. Instead, defenders (not only Rose) were playing him tight and that allowed Teague to cut to the rim and look like, well… Rose. Da real Rose started the game as a distributor and then took to the lane as the first wore on. Luol Deng was the Bulls offense early on, while playing the solid D he always provides. It looked like the Bulls could have distanced themselves early, as they ended the first with an 11 point lead.
The second started with Unit: DJ TrainWreck showcasing their inability to score. Teague proved that he could still blow past Korver. And Rose was not getting calls… until he did get calls. Aw, snap! Rose headed to the line for the first time with 4:37 left in the second. Then he headed there again and again. Carlos Boozer got inadvertently cut on the forehead soon afterward, and subsequently turned into a beast. This raises the question of whether or not the Bulls should cut The Beard leading into every game. Despite all of this, the Bulls fell apart at the end of the half and only led by six at the half.
The third quarter was wretched. The fact that the Bulls were somehow still up by one after it ended is still surprising as I write these words. The ATL seemingly dominated them all over the place. It was plain ugly and gave me the feeling that the Bulls were on their way to going down 3-2 in the series.
Then the oddest of turns turned. The fourth quarter started with Rose, Brewer, Deng, Gibson, and Asik. Seeing as starters often get rest in this period, this line-up is not unusual. What is rather queer is that this line-up would stay in for all but the final moments of the game. Whether it was a temporary line-up that proved its worth or the greater part of a master plan, may never be known. Thibs commented after the game that, “They got it going pretty [well] so we kept them in there.” Regardless, it worked on both ends of the floor. On the offensive end, Rose was the catalyst even more so than usual, which is saying something. The game plan was that Rose gets the ball, drives, and then does something – usually that meant taking it to the hoop, but he also did his fair share of passing. On the defensive end, the tandem of Taj and Asik did their part to shut down the lane. Granted, Teague still had a few ridiculous drives, but that was about it. The lane was closed for business, via Taj & Omer. This combination of D & O led to the Bulls pulling away to a
nervous comfortable lead and a 3-2 series lead.
After seeing Asik getting next to nothing for playing time in the Pacers series, the use of him to close out the game tonight was rather unexpected. It is so very hard to judge an award like Coach of the Year, but seeing Thibs stick with a very unconventional closing line-up and it working, really makes you wonder. Now let’s see our boys close this thing out on Thursday!