CHI 117 ATL 129: Here are some game notes from the first half of Saturday night’s game. (I missed the second half due to a previously scheduled engagement.)
- Joe Johnson got a lot of open looks, including a couple of wide open threes which he buried. This was as “in rhythm” as I have seen Joe in a while. It was a little surprising to see some of the Bulls’ defenders forget about him on defense. If I were the opposing coach, my game plan would be to double team Joe and let everyone else beat me. The Bulls apparently did not go with that strategy.
- Josh Smith played one of his best games of the season. I was hard on him in my previous post, but against the Bulls he really attacked the rim. Smith constantly drove the basketball and was able to draw a number of fouls from Nocioni (who in my opinion is a slow but underrated defender). You could see “Noc” get under Smith’s skin at times, but Josh held his on and kept battling. On one play in particular, Josh had the ball about 15 feet out, thought about the long jumper, pump faked and drew the foul on the way to the rim. A perfect play on that possession.
- Pachulia came off the bench and provided some key minutes. He especially looked comfortable on offense and has started to use his left hand more to finish at the rim. Assuming the Hawks don’t trade for another big, he’s going to play a huge role down the stretch for this team.
- The Bulls set the tempo and Hawks matched it with no problem. I think its a mistake to tempt these Hawks to run (as the Bulls found out). There aren’t many teams as athletic as the Hawks who can match their game speed.
- Derrick Rose is the next superstar. No doubt about it. The dude attacks the rim better than anyone not named Kobe, Lebron and D-Wade. I saw Marvin at times try to guard him, but Rose was simply to quick to the hoop. It’s almost as though he’s capable of getting to the rim whenever he sets his mind to it. If he had a supporting cast – he doesn’t – the Bulls would be legitimate contenders for the 8 seed in the East.
- Marvin Williams is quietly improving his game. While I think his “aggressiveness” meter is turned up to about a 7 (out of 10), he’s playing with increased enthusiasm. Moreover, he’s distinguished himself as the third scorer on this team. I think there’s plenty of room for improvement in his game, which is scary given that he’s a pretty good player as is.