(#5) Atlanta Hawks vs. (#1) Chicago Bulls: Everything You Need To Know

Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls TV Schedule:

Game 1: Atlanta Hawks AT Chicago Bulls | May 2nd, 2011 (MON) | 8:00 PM Eastern Time | TNT

Game 2: Atlanta Hawks AT Chicago Bulls | May 4th, 2011 (WED) | 8:00 PM Eastern Time | TNT

Game 3: Chicago Bulls  AT Atlanta Hawks | May 6th, 2011 (FRI) | 7:00 PM Eastern Time | ESPN

Game 4: Chicago Bulls  AT Atlanta Hawks | May 8th, 2011 (SUN) | 8:00 PM Eastern Time | TNT

*Game 5: Atlanta Hawks AT Chicago Bulls | May 10th, 2011 (TUE) | To be determined… | TNT

*Game 6: Chicago Bulls  AT Atlanta Hawks | May 12th, 2011 (THU) | To be determined… | ESPN

*Game 7: Atlanta Hawks AT Chicago Bulls | May 15th, 2011 (SUN) | To be determined…. | TNT



Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls Series Breakdown:

The Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls faced each other three times during the regular season, all of the 3 games being in the month of March. In the first game, Al Horford & the hawks came back from a 19 point deficit despite not having Josh Smith in uniform. In the second game, Josh Smith was in uniform but Carlos Boozer wasn’t. That however didn’t translate to success for the Hawks as the Chicago Bulls handled their business in the United Center, winning by 18. In the third and final game, the Hawks were just downright embarrassed by the Chicago Bulls on national television, as they got blown out by 33 points. The Chicago Bulls won the season series 2-1. This was the first time the Bulls won the season series since the 06-07 season. The Hawks are a total -48 against the Chicago Bulls this season.


Cool Facts:

  • The Hawks have a (100-113) all-time win-lose record against the Chicago Bulls.
  • The Hawks are (59-46) all-time at home against the Bulls.
  • The Hawks are (39-65) all-time on the road against the Bulls.
  • The Hawks & Bulls have a tied playoff record when facing each other, both are (8-8).
  • This will be the 5th time the Hawks & Bulls match up with each other in the playoffs. The last time they did, it was 1997.
  • Al Horford and Joakim Noah were teammates iin the University of Florida where they won back-to-back championships together.
  • Kirk Hinrich played the Bulls from 2003 up to 2010. He is the Bulls’ all-time leader in 3 point field goal made and attempted. He also ranks 4th in assists and steals.
  • Jamal Crawford who was drafted by Cavaliers was traded to the Bulls on draft night. He spent his first four seasons in Chicago.


Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls Series Preview:

Well folks, here we are again. The Hawks made it to the 2nd round for the third straight season. The past two seasons, the Hawks haven’t found any success in the second round, posting a (0-8) record. Will success be in their future this time around? Maybe. This Hawks team is hard to figure out. One can see the Hawks laying down and take the beating the whole series, while one can see the Hawks stepping up to the plate and “shocking the world” and pulling off the upset.

It’s hard to predict the Hawks. They, at times, can make you look like “Einstein”, and at times they can make you like a complete and utter joke/idiot. They’ve always been tough on guys in the betting world. One game, they will look like a legit contender and another game they will look like a legit lottery team. “Which Larry Drew Atlanta Hawks team will we see in this series?” is the million dollar question.

As we all know, this series will be a tough one for Larry Drew and the Hawks. However, this series went from really challenging to “X-Factor” challenging as Kirk Hinrich got injured and is doubtful for the entire series. Larry Drew now has the tough task to figure out the lineup and the rotation. LD usually struggles with that even without any injuries happening, so it will be interesting to see how he handles this task. LD has a lot of versatile players that can play multiple positions. He has a lot of possibilities as far as lineups go. He can go big, he can go small, he can go defensive-minded, he can go offensive-minded, he can go all-around, he can go most talented. Good luck Coach Drew, I would hate to be you.

Rotation and Lineup is one of the biggest question marks and problems Larry Drew faces coming into this series, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Defensively, how will he try to match-up with Chicago? Will he go for the Dwight Howard defensive gameplan and let one star (this time the player being Derrick Rose) go for 40 every night and focus and hone in on the other players? Will he try to get the ball out Rose’s hand and let someone else try to beat them? I for one think the Hawks should try to avoid being too predictable in their defensive game-plan and do a combination of both. At times make Derrick Rose try (and succeed?) to take over, and at times, make his teammates be the one to carry the scoring load.

Also, how will Larry Drew approach his offensive gameplan? In the Orlando Magic series, we saw a lot of isolations. Weird to me because I thought the whole idea of hiring Coach Drew in the first place was to get away from that, especially in the playoffs. Will the heavy-isolation & heavy-jumpshot offense continue here against the best defense in the league? All I know is, no matter what kind of offense Larry Drew does, he has to make sure it is ran quicker and faster. The Hawks struggled running their plays in the first round. They would either run the play either too late or too slow, that surely can’t happen in order to stay competitive in this series.

With or without Kirk Hinrich, he match-up on paper definitely favors Chicago. This Bulls team has the Coach of the Year and the MVP, and they are the #1 seed for a reason. I can go as far as saying that this might be the toughest 2nd round team the Hawks have had the pleasure of encountering. That being said, I actually think the Hawks can stay competitive in this series, despite facing (in my opinion) the most talented team the Hawks have had to face in the Eastern Semis.

Stay tuned for my prediction….


Possible Starting Lineups Coach Larry Drew Can Use:

Like I said above, Larry Drew has the tough job to figure out which lineup he will start with. Here are some of the few realistic lineups Larry Drew might consider…

Teague/Johnson/Williams/Smith/Horford- This is probably the one that comes into mind first. LD didn’t show that he wanted to go “big” against Chicago in the regular season. 1 through 5, all players match up well when it comes to size and none of the 5 players are a liability on offense.

Teague/Johnson/Smith/Horford/Pachulia- This makes sense too. Horford matching up against Boozer is nice to think about. Also, it makes the Hawks bigger and it puts the Hawks’ best potential defender (Josh Smith) on Chicago’s 2nd best offensive weapon (Luol Deng). Also picturing Zaza and Joakim Noah go at it is pretty fun.

Crawford/Johnson/Williams/Smith/Horford- This caters more for the offensive minded. Jamal Crawford doesn’t provide much defense, especially to a guy like Rose, but he does make it a lot easier for Joe, Horford, and Smith to get better looks than if Teague was the point guard. Jamal draws a lot more defensive attention than Teague, which makes it tough for the opposing team to decide which player to focus on on defense.

Crawford/Johnson/Smith/Horford/Pachulia- Same reasons above as the other one, except this time Smoove gets bumped down to the Small Forward position and Horford down to the Power Forward position. This lineup not only caters to the offensive minded but slightly to the defensive minded as well, as Smith will now be matched up with Deng and Horford with Boozer.

Johnson/Wilkins/Williams/Smith/Horford- The Hawks can go “big” if they want and have Joe play point. Joe is a capable ball handler and has shown that he can guard point guards (not sure if he can guard Rose though…) in the past, so this makes some sense.

Johnson/Wilkins/Smith/Horford/Pachulia- The Hawks can opt to go “ultra-big” with this one. This is probably the best defensive lineup the Hawks might be able to put out there. You have a big guard guarding Rose, you have a big forward guarding Deng, and you have a solid and very capable defender guarding Boozer.

In my opinion, I wouldn’t even consider the Crawford lineups. I wouldn’t like to see Jamal match up with a player like Rose. Rose will be able to get it going early and that will kill the Hawks’ chance of winning the game pretty quickly. The Johnson lineups can be argued, but again, I don’t like Joe guarding Derrick Rose either. I want Joe to be focusing more on offense in the early going and if Joe is asked to exert all of his energy on defense early on, Joe might never get on a groove offensively. Plus, I don’t think Joe is capable of guarding Rose either…. ;)

So the best two lineups in my opinions are the Teague ones. It’s not much of a shake-up, but I think it makes the most sense. Teague isn’t an experienced defender, but he is the only one that comes close to Rose’s athletic ability.

Now, which Teague lineup is best? I would go with the smaller Teague lineup, meaning the Teague/Johnson/Williams/Smith/Horford lineup. Imagining Horford on Boozer is nice, but Josh Smith is capable of doing the same type of damage Horford might do against Boozer if he puts his mind to it and plays smart. I know that’s asking a lot from Josh Smith but you have to put the pressure on him to perform better. Having Josh Smith play Power Forward puts more pressure on him to attack the basket than if he were to play the Small Forward position. Also, it’s not like Horford will be completely useless offensively if he’s matched up with Noah. Horford loves to play against his old teammate and has shown in the past that he can be successful.


Keys To Stay Competitive vs. the Chicago Bulls:

I went over some of this earlier (above) in my preview, but I have a few more things to add…

  • Once again, the faith of the Hawks lies on the hands of an unlikely player. Jason Collins was that unlikely player in the series vs. the Magic. This time, it’s Jeff Teague. With Kirk Hinrich doubtful for the entire series, Jeff Teague will be asked to play significant minutes. However, there is a difference between Jason Collins and Jeff Teague. Jason Collins has experience. What Jason was asked to do against Orlando and Dwight Howard (frustrate and defend), was familiar to him. His role hasn’t changed much since he started in the league.

    Teague on the other hand is asked to run the point guard position, guard one of the best point guards in the NBA, and provide some offense. He hasn’t shown that he can do that in his short NBA career. Yes, Teague has shown he is capable of doing all of that at a couple of games in the regular season, but he has yet to show if he can do that in a consistent basis. That’s not his fault though (unless he doesn’t practice hard enough…), Coach Drew didn’t give him consistent minutes at any point in time in the regular season. Anyway, I don’t expect Teague to be the “Derrick Rose Stopper” and the Hawks’ version of Nate Robinson but he does have to at least provide something. If he can’t play well defensively against Rose, he needs to be able to score. If he can’t score, he needs to slow down Rose & CJ Watson. If he can’t do either, the Hawks are in dire trouble.
  • I mentioned this earlier, the offense needs to be less predictable. The isolations and the jumpshots won’t work against Chicago, simple as that. As Charles Barkley likes to say “You don’t live by the jumpshot, you die by the jumpshot”. That statement will be true if the Hawks don’t change it up. That kind of offense was semi-successful against Orlando, but you can’t expect that it will the same because you’re facing a better defensive team in the Bulls.
  • Just play defense. Teague, Crawford, Johnson, Wilkins, or whoever else is asked to guard Rose (Pape Sy?!) needs to find some success. I don’t think you can be fully success in stopping Derrick Rose (no team can…), but you can’t make him go for 40+ while going .500+ from the field. But if somehow Rose does accomplish that kind of statline, the Hawks better make sure they do the same thing they did to Orlando to Chicago. If Rose is dominating every game, everyone (or most) of Rose’s teammates better be struggling.
  • How about a Zaza headbutt*? That’s been the key to staying competitive against the clear better and more talented teams. Zaza did it against Boston in 2008 and he did it in the first round this season against Orlando. So how about it Zaza? Take your pick, Joakim Noah or Kurt Thomas. Headbutting either one would be very entertaining.

*This is a joke people….I don’t think a Zaza headbutt really is a key to winning or staying competitive. Kinda…


Final Prediction of the Series:

If you didn’t know, I correctly picked the Hawks to win their first round series vs. the Magic, even getting the number of games right. I’m looking to look like an expert once again with this series. That being said, I’m picking the Hawks to…..lose in 7. Make it clearer, I have Bulls in 7. I think this will be one of those series where both teams win every home game and lose very road game. I think this will be one of those series that defies all the stats, all the match-ups on paper, and just every hard hitting analysis bloggers/writers have, similar to Hawks vs. Celtics in 2008.

You heard it here first folks, this series will be a lot closer than what people are assuming. Bulls in 7.

Man, I hope I’m right…or wrong, if the Hawks want to prove me wrong and win the series. :)

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Tags: Al Horford Atlanta Hawks Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose Joakim Noah Josh Smith Kirk Hinrich

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