With the Chicago Bulls up 3-2 against the Atlanta Hawks, they look to Game 6 as a potential series clinching game in the ATL. The Bulls have been an up and down team throughout the playoffs. Which team will show up for Game 6 against the Atlanta Hawks? I break down 8 Keys for a Bulls victory leading them to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 1998.
There's no Benny in the ATL
The Bulls have been notorious all season for getting off to slow starts. However, they have been able to come back against many teams in the regular season. But the playoffs are a different monster.
Opponents come with more energy, not just in the beginning of the game but they bring it for all 48 minutes. The Bulls cannot win if they decide to not bring energy, aggressiveness and hustle from the start. The Bulls need to bring all the intangibles at the start of the game.
Interesting stat during this series: Whoever has won the first quarter has won the game. I hate being that guy who relies solely on stats, but the Bulls need to bring the intangibles early to win the first quarter.
They need to set the tone early and finish the game with the same energy, aggressiveness and hustle.
Keith Bogans, the secret to the Chicago Bulls success?
Yes, Keith Bogans is one of my Keys to a Bulls victory in Game 6.
Why do you ask? Simply this stat. The Bulls were 26-2 in the regular season when Keith Bogans scored more than 6 points a game. They are 5-0 in the Playoffs when Bogans scores more than six points a game.
In this series against Atlanta, the Bulls are 3-0 when Bogans scores more than six points a game. Notice a common trend? The Bulls simply win when Bogans scores more than six points a game. Their two losses against the Hawks? Bogans scored three points each in those games.
The reason why Bogans starts is because of his tenacious defense. He never rests on a play on the defensive end. Any points that Bogans scores is a huge added bonus for the Bulls. But if Bogans can knock down a couple of threes, stats don't seem to lie in the playoffs so far.
"Boo" or "Booz"?
Carlos Boozer has underachieved throughout the playoffs. You can mostly blame his toe for his lack of production, but if you are going to play in the playoffs, you have to produce, especially if you were the Bulls marquee free agent signing.
After showing nearly no pulse against the Pacers, Boozer has somewhat shown life against the Hawks. His defense is still well below average, but he is providing the offense that the Bulls fans have hoped for.
He is shooting a much better 48 percent from the field against the Hawks compared to shooting 35.8 percent against the Pacers.
Look for the Bulls to establish Boozer early in the game. If the results are good, that really makes the Bulls offense complete, as you will see better spacing and more guys getting touches and not just D. Rose carrying the scoring load. The Bulls need Boozer to step up the rest of the playoffs and especially in Game 6 if they want to clinch the series.
There is a "good" Josh Smith and a "bad" Josh Smith. Which Josh Smith will show up? For the Bulls to win Game 6, Bulls fans can only hope the "bad" Josh Smith shows up. What entails a "bad" Josh Smith? Shooting jumpers outside of 15 feet, getting into foul trouble, making bad plays, you get the hint.
Kyle Korver is not the answer to shutting down Joe Johnson
In the two victories against the Bulls, Joe Johnson has averaged 29 points a game on 65.6 percent shooting. Yes, that's 65.6 percent shooting for a shooting guard. That is an unbelievable percentage and anyone who can average that many points a game on that shooting percentage will probably be able to beat anyone in this league.
However, Joe Johnson's numbers in the three losses against the Bulls? 13.7 points a game on 40.5 percent shooting.
After Johnson burned the Bulls in Game 1, the Bulls made their adjustments by double teaming Johnson early and often. However during the Bulls' Game 4 loss, Johnson was still being double teamed but it came late which led to Johnson penetrating or shooting over the smaller Bulls' defenders.
Johnson has repeatedly said he will be more aggressive on offense, double team or no double team. The Bulls are going to have to shut down Joe Johnson in Game 6 and bring all their energy on the defensive end if they want a chance to close out the series.
Taj Gibson, member of "The Bench Mob"
The Bulls "Bench Mob" has stepped up throughout the regular season and has shown flashes of brilliance in the playoffs as well. In Game 5, it was the likes of Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, and Ronnie Brewer playing all of the fourth quarter to provide the energy and spark to lead the Bulls to a Game 5 victory. Who will step up from the Bench Mob in Game 6?
Kyle Korver has disappeared in this series. Will he come back and be able to hit big shots? Will Taj be consistent and play smart basketball and provide the same energy he provided in Game 5? Can CJ Watson provide the energy and consistent play so Derrick can get some much needed rest down the stretch? Will Ronnie Brewer be able to play lock down defense against Joe Johnson or Jamal Crawford?
The Bench Mob needs to mob the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6. (That was very cheesy, I apologize.)
X-Factor, Luol Deng
Coming into the season and even to the playoffs, I've said it from the beginning, if the Bulls want any shot at the championship or having a successful season, Luol Deng is the X-Factor.
Luol Deng has been Mr. Bull this season. He has provided offensive scoring and great defense throughout the year. He deserves all the respect in the world after dealing with media and fan scrutiny over the years.
We know in the history of Luol Deng playing for the Bulls, he has the potential to disappear on offense. However if Deng can be active like he was in Game 5, cutting/slashing/popping out for open jumpers, the Bulls should be able to pull it off in Atlanta.
How important is Luol to the Bulls? You know what you are going to get out of D. Rose. You should be expecting 20/10 out of Boozer. But after that, the drop off in offensive production is significant, that is if Luol disappears on offense. Luol needs to step it up. He is a very important piece if the Bulls want to win a championship.
MVP MVP MVP
Derrick Rose is the Chicago Bulls. He is averaging 32.0 points a game and 9.2 assists. Those are jaw dropping numbers. Dare I say it, MJ like numbers. There's a reason he is the MVP. Derrick needs to do the following as he does game in and out.
1. Get his teammates involved.
2. Take good shots, limit his contested jumpers.
3. Be the MVP.
If Derrick can repeat his performance in Game 3 against Atlanta, the Hawks have no chance. There's no question D. Rose will come into this game and will do whatever it takes to win. He is a winner and the city of Chicago is so blessed to have this superstar.