Chicago 93, Atlanta 73: This one was over by the end of the first quarter thanks to two seemingly pissed-off starters who were benched in game 5: Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Their indifferent defense and appalling offense got them benched for the fourth quarter Tuesday, but both came out invigorated, with Boozer providing the offense (playoff-best 23 points), and Noah playing stifling defense (three blocks), and the Hawks never got going offensively.
I wouldn’t say Atlanta collapsed – it was more about the Bulls finally playing a complete defensive game (the Hawks shot 36 percent, including just 1-of-11 from deep). Jamal Crawford struggled (2-for-10), so did Al Horford (2-for-10), and Jeff Teague turned into a pumpkin early, then injured his wrist in the second quarter, and was never a factor. But the Hawks are a capable center away from getting back here next season.
Miami visits Chicago Sunday night (8 pm) for game one of the Eastern Conference Finals. I won’t bore you with silly matchup breakdowns (I’ll save those for the comments section), but I like the Bulls because of a) matchups, b) Derrick Rose (19 points on 14 shots last night; 12 assists), c) coaching. Things to consider – the Heat struggle defending point guards (Rose averaged 29 ppg on 44% shooting in three games vs. Miami in the regular season), Boozer and Noah are a more formidable tandem than Anthony and Bosh (gosh I hope they play like they did in game six), and if Miami tries Wade on Rose, how much will that hurt Dwyane at the offensive end?
Will Miami throw some zone at the Bulls, like it did Philly?
If the Bulls go small – LeBron at power forward – how will the Bulls counter?
Will Kyle Korver return to being a factor after a pretty weak Atlanta series because he was such a defensive liability?
Remember when everyone was jocking LeBron last June … except Derrick Rose?
Bulls in seven.