Jamal Crawford could see it in the Chicago Bulls.
CHICAGO (AP) — Jamal Crawford could see it in the Chicago Bulls. They were trailing in a series that many expected to be a breeze for them, and the last thing they could afford was another letdown. "They were desperate tonight," Crawford said. And now, they’re tied. MVP Derrick Rose scored 25 points, Joakim Noah added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Chicago beat the Atlanta Hawks 86-73 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night to knot this series. The top-seeded Bulls shook off a dismal performance in the opener and looked more like the team with a league-high 62 wins, building a 14-point lead and ending the game on a 9-2 run after the Hawks got within six. Now, the series shifts to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4 Friday and Sunday, with Chicago at least in better shape after a 103-95 loss in Game 1. Rose, meanwhile, can focus on the task at hand. The past few days were a blur for the Chicago product, with the news about his winning the MVP breaking, the formal announcement on Tuesday and the presentation with Stern before the opening tip. "I’m just happy that it’s over now, and we can just ball out," Rose said. The superstar point guard showed just why he became the youngest player to win the award — at least in the first half, when he scored 16 points. He went cold after that and wound up hitting just 10 of 27 shots, going 1 of 8 on 3-pointers, and committing eight turnovers. He did convert 4 of 6 free throws after failing to get to the line in the opener, and he insisted the left ankle he sprained in the opening round against Indiana and twisted at the end of Game 1 in this series is fine. At times, he seemed more aggressive, but the shots stopped falling. "Shots I normally hit, they just didn’t fall tonight," Rose said. "The way that they’re playing me, I’m going to continue to shoot." The Hawks are sagging off him, daring him to hit from the outside, and he vowed that will change. Noah helped pick up the slack. So did Luol Deng, who scored all but two of his 14 points in the second half and grabbed 12 rebounds in the game. Carlos Boozer, bothered by a turf toe injury on his right foot, had eight points and 11 boards and heard it from the home crowd — something that didn’t sit well with Noah. "Sometimes our home crowd, it’s a tough place to play," he said. "We have a lot of love for our crowd, but through tough times, we got to stick together." Noah remembers being booed as a rookie, and "it’s tough." Boozer, meanwhile, hasn’t been the same since he missed five games with a sprained left ankle. "With Carlos, I think people have to understand he’s playing through an injury right now, and he’s giving us what he’s got," Noah said. "He’s somebody who has an unbelievable presence and he opens up a lot of things for a lot of us. I think that sometimes people are quick to bash one player, but this is a team. And we know that we need Carlos to get to where we want to go. I think Taj (Gibson) does an excellent job, but we need everybody." Like Noah, coach Tom Thibodeau rushed to Boozer’s defense. "Carlos is giving us everything that he has," he said. "He’s nicked up. He’s playing hard. He’s on the boards. We need that rebounding. His offense will come around." The Bulls won even though they shot just over 39 percent and were 5 of 22 on 3-pointers, because they dominated on the glass and locked down Atlanta. The Bulls outrebounded the Hawks 58-39 after getting beaten on the boards 38-37 in Game 1 and held them to 33.8 percent shooting, after they converted just over 51 percent in the opener. "They came out and applied pressure," said Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, who scored 21 points without a turnover. "They got up into us. They made every catch we got tough. They came on Joe (Johnson), double-teamed him a lot. Kind of frustrated us as a team, because he got it going the first game." While Teague came through with another good game filling in for the injured Kirk Hinrich, Johnson and Crawford struggled after coming up big in the opener. Johnson saw his scoring dip from 34 points to 16. Crawford finished with just 11 after scoring 22 in Game 1, and the Hawks simply couldn’t sustain any momentum — not with the Bulls defending like this. "Our defense was night-and-day better than Game 1," Chicago’s Kyle Korver said. So was the rebounding. The Bulls were just more aggressive, period. "If they get going early, they’re hard to slow down," Thibodeau said. "I thought we had the right mindset, and we had a multiple-effort mentality." Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)