Four games in, the series tied at two games a piece, and we’ve seen the best and worst from both teams. In game 1, Joe Johnson’s 34 point effort shocked the Bulls and flipped home court. In Game 2, Chicago used a balanced attack and won handily. Game 3 showed everyone why Derrick Rose was MVP (a Herculean effort and career high 44 points). And just when you thought Chicago (and Rose) had figured the Hawks out the Hawks control game four, Josh Smith breaks out a stat line to be remembered (23 points, 16 boards, 8 assists, and 2 blocks), and we have our first 7-game slugfest of the playoffs!
All season Rose has been Chicago’s only option offensively, all season they’ve played team defense and depended on him in the clutch to get them a W. That plan worked 62 times and gave the Bulls the #1 seed in the playoffs. But no one has labeled the Bulls as “the favorites” to win a title this year…Even after all their success; they’re still being doubted by everyone who matters, why?
They haven’t played a series like this one, they haven’t showed their teeth.
The last three years, be it the Celtics or the Lakers, the eventual champion has needed toughness (both mental and physical) to complete their run. KG invigorated the Celtics when he arrived and led them to a title (him and Paul Pierce). We all saw Kobe’s teeth (literally) the last two years.
True, the Bulls went to a seven game series against the eventual champion Celtics three years ago, but that was a completely different Bulls team with Ben Gordon being the guy taking the last shot, this version of the Bulls puts Rose in the driver’s seat, and they’ll go as far as he can carry them.
How good are the Hawks? All signs point to them being better than the Magic and Pacers, but not among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. When Josh Smith and Joe Johnson play well though, this team is very dangerous (not to mention young Jeff Teague’s rapid improvement in the playoffs). But this series isn’t about the Hawks; it’s about the Bulls being tested, bouncing back, and finding a way to win.
They’re a year away…not enough playoff experience…need a second scorer next to Rose…
Experience, experience, experience. That’s all the Bulls have been hearing about their chances, and after a short but tough series against the Pacers they have yet to show anyone that they’re ready to take that next step. And for as good as Rose was all season he’s had a very inconsistent post-season (scored 34 points in game four but on 32 shots, and had two huge turnovers when the game was getting away from the Bulls).
Game five shifts the series back to Chicago. The Hawks have already won a game at the United Center and undoubtedly aim to steal another one in hopes of taking the series back to ATL with a chance to clinch. The Bulls need to be ready. Rose needs to be aggressive and his teammates (Boozer and Deng especially) need to pick up the slack.
Every NBA champion has had to work hard to reach the summit. Magic and Bird had to go head to head, Jordan had to conquer the Pistons, Kobe had to vanquish Shaq, it’s never been easy. These Bulls haven’t accomplished anything to this point, and they know it. We’ll find out exactly what this young team is made of over the next three games.
Accolades and hype be damned, go out and earn the label of Champions.
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.