Bulls vs. Hawks Playoff Preview
How things can change in just one season. A year ago right now the .500 Vinny Del Negro led Bulls had been eliminated in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks had just come back to beat the Bucks in a seven game series and were about to be swept by the Magic 4-0 in a series that was never close.
The Hawks are a strange team as I noted here a few months ago. They actually won eight games less under new coach Larry Drew than they did a year ago under Mike Woodson, but after beating Orlando convincingly in the first round they are in the exact same spot they were a year ago.
The Hawks forte is half-court defense and they only give up 95.8 ppg which was ninth lowest in the NBA. Interestingly during the regular season the Hawks only scored 95 ppg which was 26th best in the league. Even if you haven’t watched a Hawks game this season, just by glancing at those two numbers you can tell this is a team that grinds out possessions on both sides of the ball. They don’t shoot a particularly high percentage and they have really only one inside post threat, Al Horford. Josh Smith can do it on occasion, but is best when slashing to the rim.
For as bad as the Hawks were ridiculed for signing Joe Johnson to a huge six year, $119 million dollar deal they need to be given some credit. Johnson’s 2010-11 season wasn’t his best, but there are only a handful of players who are more important to their team.
The Bulls overall are a more talented and deeper squad. The injury to Kirk Hinrich comes at a bad time for Atlanta which is basically forced into employing a limited six man rotation to get production. Jeff Teague, who only averaged 13.8 minutes a game in the regular season will have the task of guarding Derrick Rose, which is something the Bulls should exploit.
For the Bulls, Carlos Boozer’s injury is a lingering question mark but he will try to play in game one. A healthy Noah-Boozer combo would really be hard for the Hawks to stop offensively. During the three regular season games the Bulls killed Atlanta on the glass; for Atlanta to win they can’t allow that to happen and give the Bulls multiple shot/offensive rebound possessions. During the regular season the Bulls held two games to one advantage. In the three games against the Bulls, Atlanta averaged only 80 points per game; that won’t be enough to beat the Bulls who averaged 98.6 during the season and 97.6 in the first round.
The Hawks have to be concerned about Jeff Teague guarding Derrick Rose so it will be interesting to see what Larry Drew will devise to compensate. On the other side for the Bulls, Joe Johnson is going to get his points, but the key is limiting Josh Smith and Al Horford; other than those three guys who is going to score? The Hawks only scored more than 90 points once in their series win over Orlando (103 in game one). Look for the Bulls to run as much as possible and take advantage of the fact they have more offensive weapons than Atlanta can stop.
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