The second game was the polar opposite of the first. It was a low scoring, grind-it-out game where made shots came at a premium. Atlanta, specifically Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, could not carry their amazing offensive momentum into game two which led the Hawks to only muster 73 points compared to Chicago's 86.
It was a 30 point difference from Monday to Wednesday for the Hawks, mostly due to the Chicago defense. Johnson only had 16 points tonight while he had 34 in Game One and Crawford finished with only 11.
The shots that were dropping in their first game victory just couldn't find the bottom of the net. Chicago seemed more aware of loose balls and were able to grasp the victory by withholding a late fourth quarter run by Atlanta.
Derrick Rose is struggling, there's no doubt about it. There are a few factors that could be contributing to this. Maybe his hurt ankle, maybe the pressure, or it could just be an untimely slump.
Looking at the initial statistics, it doesn't look too bad—25 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds. However, taking a closer view of the scorecard and it shows just how much of an up-and-down game it was.
To gain those 25 points, Rose had to put up 27 shots for the second consecutive game. With those 10 assists, he also turned the ball over eight times. Given he has the ball in his hands every single play and is the main source of scoring for Chicago, eight turnovers are eventually going to cost Chicago a game.
On top of not being able to hit shots consistently, Rose hasn't been able to get to the free throw line. This is where his ankle comes into question. He's driving the hoop less and settling for mid to long range jumpers.
He's gotten to the line a whopping six times during the entire series versus the Hawks, which all came in Game 2. It seems as if he is missing a step that he had a few weeks earlier. If Rose can regain his full speed, it should add another element to Chicago's offense.
Joe Johnson couldn't miss in Game 1.
In Game 2? Well, he could.
Johnson tried forcing shots too much in the second game, but those same shots were going down in the series opener. Him, along with Crawford, are the reason why Atlanta was able to steal a game on the road and have the advantage from here on out.
Johnson shot 7/15, which was the best percentage on the team other than Jeff Teague, but had nowhere near the impact that he did in the first game.
Crawford only shot 20 percent from the field with the majority of his points coming from the charity strike. It was a major drop off from his 8/16 with 22 points that he put up in Game 1.
Jeff Teague has definitely outdone expectations with usual starting guard Kirk Hinrich riding the bench with an injury. He has played 85 minutes with only a single turnover in the first two games.
Not only Teague careful with the ball, he also had the highest point total and field goal percentage for Atlanta in Game 2. He scored 21 points off of 50 percent shooting and went 6/7 from the free throw line.
Through the first two games he also is averaging four assists. The young point guard may be making his name for himself while also cementing more future playing time. The Hawks have been high on this player since drafting him and now we all see why.
How about the face in that picture?
Boozer, once again, struggled in this contest. He only hit a third of his shots while mustering eight points. He seemed to be getting it back together in Game 1, but that was dismissed. His shot is off and he is not going up strong with the ball. He was denied any free throws as he was unable to draw any shooting fouls. He even had a dunk blocked, which is somewhat of a slap in the face.
It is crucial to the Bulls post-season success that Boozer regains his composure and starts playing the game he is capable of. After all, his low-post offense in the playoffs is the whole reason the Bulls signed him in the off-season.
Joakim Noah shot 75 percent from the field and hit 7/8 free throw shots to finish with 19 points. On top of his great offensive game, he also had 14 rebounds, three steals and a block.
He certainly played the best of any Bull on the floor. His constant energy keeps him, his teammates, and the crowd ignited throughout the game, which may not have any stats but definitely has an effect.
But is he the X-Factor for Chicago?
Of course, Rose is the best player on the floor in this series, but with him currently struggling for whatever reason, other players have to step up and earn their pay check. Noah is doing just that. His intense style of play carried him to an impressive double-double and fantastic defensive performance. If he continues to be a factor on both ends of the court, it will be difficult for the Hawks' defense to compensate.
Atlanta is 24-17 back home in Georgia, and Chicago is 26-15 on the road. The regular season series was split in Atlanta, with Derrick Rose playing one of his best and worst games in Atlanta.
Of course, the Bulls can take on on the road, but will they? If they maintain the same intensity and momentum that they did tonight, they should be able to take at least one.
If Atlanta has a repeat performance of Game 1, then it will be awfully difficult to slow Johnson and Crawford down while fighting a noisy crowd.
In my personal opinion, the series will be tied once again when they come back to Chicago for Game 5, as the Bulls will take at least one in Atlanta.
This series is shaping up to be a good one. The intensity is there as players are constantly leaving their feet to capture lose balls and looking for any opportunity to take an advantage over the opponent. Neither team is outstandingly superior in talent. The Hawks seem to live and die with Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson as the Bulls do with Derrick Rose.
This series could come down to role players, though. Can Jeff Teague continue his near flawless play? Will Luol Deng continue to be the glue guy, while Korver, Boozer, and Noah attempt to give the Bulls the edge? This will be an exciting series that would not be surprising if took all seven games.
Game 3 is Friday. Enjoy the NBA Playoffs!