Deerfield, Ill. – I’m here at the Berto Center, where the Chicago Bulls are holding their shootaround today. On Tuesday the Bulls staged their second awards presentation in three days, this one to hand Derrick Rose his trophy as the NBA’s most valuable player. (On Sunday they’d had a similar shindig for Tom Thibodeau, just voted the league’s coach the year.)
Very soon, the honored Bulls will need to win an actual game. They trail the Hawks 1-0 in the Eastern semis, and a team can override such a deficit. It would be difficult for any team to rally from an 2-0 hole.
The Bulls aren’t your typical No. 1 seed. They got good fast. They were 41-41 last season, and they went 62-20 in the regular season just completed. And Rose, as terrific as he is, isn’t a full-grown NBA star on the order of Kobe Bryant. At 22, Rose is the NBA’s youngest MVP. He’s three years out of college. He has never before played in the Eastern semis, let alone any level beyond.
In sum, there’s a megaton of pressure on this team tonight. The Hawks can lose Game 2 and call it a successful sojourn. The Bulls have to win.
At issue is whether the Hawks caught the Bulls unaware in Game 1 and pulled away late by hitting a month’s worth of difficult shots, or whether the Bulls simply aren’t as good as their record. One game cannot provide the answer. Game 2 should give us a better idea.
By Mark Bradley