Yes, Derrick Rose is magnificent. Yes, he torched the Atlanta Hawks. This is what League MVPs do. You can’t stop them forever, you can only hope to slow them up. As Derrick Rose championed his team’s cause with 44 points on the way to a 99-82 victory, the casual observor would likely give the Chicago point guard all the credit.
The casual observor would be wrong, and that is not taking anything away from Rose, who had a fabulous bounce back game.
Chinks in the False Armor
Is there ever more cause for consternation than a team of guys who lose a game, and then can’t agree onwhy they lost, or what they need to do to win? It seems that we Hawks fans would be used to this by now, but then…should anybody have to get used to it? Courtesy of the inestimable Michael Cunningham (Hawks beat writer), the below post game quotes show the typical post-loss splintering of the Hawks’ psyche:
J.J. didn’t like the offensive approach: “It just seemed as if a lot of times we just ran a lot of pick-and-rolls and I was just kind of buried in the corner. I just thought we played into their hands. We didn’t do anything, I thought, to get our scorers the basketball to make plays. They come with the double team and they make us give it up. We can’t win like that. If you look at Game 1 it was nothing like that. Obviously they made adjustments but at the same time we have to stick with what got us here.”
“Honestly, I just got to force the issue,” Joe said. “In Game 4, I am definitely going to do that. I am not going to succumb to the double team and give it up every time because that’s what they want. We are playing right into their hands. I blame myself for that.”
Okay, so Joe knows that the double team strategy is killing the Hawks, but does he have the right answer? Does forcing the issue mean he’s going to hold the ball longer, or is he going to make the other team pay for doubling him? Here’s the problem – he can’t do that alone. If guys continue to stand around when he or Jamal get doubled, nothing will change. Well, except for the frustration factor, which will only go up.
And now the second team captain speaks:
Al: “We had too much one-on-one. When you do that, this team is too good defensively. We just need to do a better job moving the ball and running the offense the right way. If one guy is not running the offense right, it’s not going to work for others. So I think that’s our biggest problem right now on the offensive end.”
Al is telling the truth, but is he owning his contribution to the problem? It seems to me that the one-on-one was a result, at least in part, of other guys not stepping up and contributing offense. So who is Al blaming for not running the offense right? Jeff Teague? Joe Johnson? Jamal Crawford? Here’s the naked truth – 2nd year man Teague is easily having a better series than two-time all-star Al.
Funny thing is, our sometimes scapegoat sixth man gets it:
“Whenever I’m at the top of the key, I see a second defender,” [Jamal] said. “They’re coming until I pass the ball. They’re kind of taking it out of my hands. That’s fine. I just want to make sure that we make them pay because we have an advantage
somewhere out there with two guys on me. if we don’t make them pay, then they’re going to continue to do it.”
Pain in the Paint
Of course, the Hawks aren’t just having offensive problems. And, they’re all too willing to focus on how they’re going to contain Derrick Rose. But, I contend – it’s not Rose that is beating them. Rose is magnifying Atlanta’s real problem, and that is the unwillingness to get down and dirty with the Bulls. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are good rebounders and hard workers, but neither guy fits the description of a goon or an enforcer. The same goes for Carlos Boozer, who has the look but hardly the mentality (much to the chagrin of Chicago fans). So what is the problem? Why are Al, Josh, and Marvin having problems with them on the glass? It isn’t athletic ability. It’s not health. As Hawks fan Astro Joe reminded me, it’s all HEART. Josh Smith showed more of this in last night’s game, but it wasn’t enough, and like with his cohort Al Horford, it came too late.
What makes this worse is the paltry performances from Chicago’s Carlos Boozer. Hawks fans aggravated with Josh Smith have something in common with Bulls fans in regard to Boozer, even though he has his teammates’ support. The Bulls’ power forward was supposed to be the #2 scoring option for Chicago, and has 20 point/10 rebound potential. The fact that he has only lived up to about half of that (the rebounding) only makes the Hawks’ low post shenanigans all the more heinous.
Face the Mirror
Rose won’t score 44 points every night. His teammates are limited. But what they are capable of, the Hawks have allowed them to do only too well. The Bulls are winning the game by not letting the Hawks go with option #1 on offense (let their 2 shooting guards do most of the work), and by beating the Hawks literally everywhere else in the game. There is no excuse for this. You can’t beat the MVP on most nights. But you can beat his teammates.
That’s what the Hawks have to do to win.
If Larry Drew wants physicality and the Hawks don’t provide it early on in game 4, he would be well served to inject Damien Wilkins and especially Zaza Pachulia into the game. There isn’t a single Hawk who works harder and more consistently on the glass and gets better position than Pachulia. He won’t back down from Chicago’s slender bigs (only Boozer is a thick body), and will likely leave some bruises as well. Wilkins probably can’t do a lot on the glass, but he’ll make thing tough in the driving lanes for Rose if he’s anywhere nearby, and he won’t do worse than Marvin Williams, who seems to have found himself on the back of a milk carton again. Besides, it may help light a fire under the starters if they have to watch the game from the bench for a while.
On the offensive side of the ball, the only answer to solving the Bulls’ defensive adjustments is to attack quickly, make the extra pass, make the SMART pass, and take smarter shots.
Of course, the question is whether or not the Hawks can all realize this at the same time, and put it into action.
Big Ray, Hawks Fan Nest Blog