The Bulls were missing Joakim Noah and Luol Deng and had traded away Tyrus Thomas, giving the fully loaded Hawks a supreme advantage inside, which they used to exact a 63-37 advantage on the boards, including (22) offensive rebounds, on their way to a fairly easy 116-92 win in Chicago.
Though the Hawks never trailed in the game, the Hawks needed a 41-24 fourth quarter to close the argument. The Bulls fought hard, including Derrick Rose (24 points), to keep it close, and the Hawks obliged by having another poor shooting night from the Backcourt (Joe Johnson 5-15, Bibby 2-7, Crawford 6-13, 13-35, 37 percent total).
Still, the Bulls had no answer for the length and activity of Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, and Zaza Pachulia, as each had a hand in building that extreme rebounding margin and the associated second chances.
Smith had (9) first quarter points and maybe should have had the ball a lot more given the complete inability of the Bulls to defend him going inside. Taj Gibson only saw a blur from Smith when trying to check him, and Smith converted 7/14 from the field and scoring (17) for the game.
Remember when we used to say that Smith needed to understand his role (read: improve) in defensive rebounding? Smith averaged (10) rebounds per game in February and started March off with a season high, (18) rebound bang against CHI. In addition, SportSouth ran a great graphic in the game regarding Smith's ranking in both blocks and steals, illustrating that he is the shortest player in the Top 12 in blocks and the tallest player in the Top 12 in steals. Nice. If Smith keeps this up, folks will have to stop talking about his potential greatness and just talk about the greatness.
Marvin Williams found his place on the team last night in exploding to the rim and finishing, also going 7-14 (18 points) and getting (9) rebounds. The Bulls, without Deng, Noah, and the traded Thomas, simply didn't have the length or athleticism to keep the Hawks off the glass with any consistency and despite their hustle, this deficiency cost them the game.
The Hawks busted out a couple of beauties, both of which should be logged in the highlights if there is any decency and common sense in the NBA.com highlight department.
The first was quite a bit of luck as Maurice Evans dribbled out behind the three point line with the shot clock winding down. Evans is no Joe Johnson in these situations, but there was nowhere left to go as he tried to dribble down the baseline and was met by the Bulls defense. Feeling contact, Evans began to lean out of bounds as he flipped the ball in the air towards the basket. Chicago fans had to feel as if they were predestined for defeat as the ball seemed to curve around the backboard into the net. Evans seemed annoyed that there was no call. Celebrate, Mo!
The other was in the shadows of garbage time. This time the ball came to Mario "Flubber" West on the outside. Amzaingly, West authored a knee knocking cross over and then drove to the hoop. With little between him and the hoop, West took off in the air, leaning a bit towards the basket. With a large amount of authority, Flubber slammed the ball through the net, eliciting a large amount of "Oooohs" and "aaahhhhs" from the Chicago faithful (they must have been if they were still in the arena at that point). Heck, even all the staff tracking the game for THHB hit the arrows on the DVR remote to check that play out a half dozen times. It was most definitely sweet.
We Tied a String Around Our Finger
We will not forget Al Horford who, in the midst of when this was still a hotly contested game in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, sent the Hawks up by (7) twice with made baskets, and then got the Hawks into a double figure lead with seven minutes left to play. Horford also pulled in (10) rebounds to go along with his (15) points--a second straight double-double. We still see a lack of aggressiveness around the hoop on offense--we wonder if there is an injury or a lack of confidence in there. Instead of playing not to be denied, Horford sometimes looks as if he is applying for a vacancy in the hoop instead of simply taking the space.
We also won't forget Mike Woodson for somewhat understanding that the Bulls had no height/strength inside and trying to exploit it. Yes, we think that there should have been an avalanche of possessions for Smith, Horford, etc, but we saw a lot more post action in Chicago than in recent games, and he kept Horford and Pachulia in there together to start the fourth which helped give Smith needed rest while the big boys continued to dominate the glass.
Highlights of the Bullying of the Bulls below: