CHICAGO — All assertions that the Bulls were simply bitten by the jitter bug in their first series were violently dismissed by Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks Monday.
The Hawks used a blueprint drawn up by the Pacers to overcome the heavily favored Bulls in Game 1 by a score of 103-95. They used two big keys to succeed that anyone halfway paying attention to the Bulls could have picked out: they used the mismatch of Keith “Bogus” Bogans and company on Joe Johnson to their advantage and they took Derrick Rose out of the game.
It was the Luol Deng show much of the first half with Deng scoring 17 while Rose did nothing of great importance. If anything positive came out of the first half it was the Bulls finally trying to move away from an over reliance on Derrick Rose, no matter how slow that movement was.
But the game changer was Joe Johnson who ran absolutely loose on the Bulls racking up 34 points. The other big men for the Hawks had nice nights with Jamal Crawford scoring 24 and Al Horford scooping up 13 rebounds. Those three guys need to be big this series for the Hawks to have a shot to win.
They were exactly that on Monday and the Hawks came out on top.
The next thing to asses is what went wrong for the Bulls. They did the opposite of what they did against Indiana where against the Pacers they started fast and fizzled; here they simply malfunctioned from the get-go.
“Once they get going, they’re hard to stop.” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after the loss. “We played low energy offense and you can’t do that in the playoffs.”
Derrick Rose came alive after halftime and ended up finishing with 24 points while Luol Deng had 21. Carlos Boozer started after reveling he had a toe injury late last week, although it was as if he wasn’t really there scoring just 14 pints with 8 rebounds.
The bench also got single handedly outplayed by one Jamal Crawford who’s 22 points matched the entire Bulls bench as a whole. The best night for the Bulls bench was had by Kyle Korver who went 3 for 4 from beyond the arch finishing with 9 points.
Just as the Bulls won as a unit during the season, they lost as one on Monday. But the worst moment of the night came at the end of the game went Derrick Rose came up limping again when he stepped on Jamal Crawford’s foot and had to be helped off the court by trainers. The full diagnosis on Rose is yet to be known but an MVP trophy tomorrow will come bitter sweet to Rose and the Bulls.
To sum up the Bulls night to your friends quickly, just say Atlanta scored the first 9 points and went on an 11-2 run before Chicago hit it’s first real bucket of the night. That’s all they need to know about how the Bulls opening game against the Hawks went, and a grim look at how it could end up.