Let’s continue our series preview with a little Q &A with a Chicago Bulls expert, Josh Hill of PippenAin’tEasy.com. Pippen Ain’t Easy is Fansided’s Chicago Bulls’ Blog. It’s an active blog that provides a lot of coverage and expert analysis of the Chicago Bulls. Make sure you check it out throughout this playoff series. There will be some good stuff there for sure.
WS: William Sevidal (Me)
JH: Josh Hill (Pippen Ain’t Easy Blogger)
WS: The Indiana Pacers were the only team in the playoffs that had a losing record in the regular season and your Chicago Bulls had the best record in the NBA, but yet, Chicago had a tough time in every game with the exception of the closeout game. Are the Indiana Pacers better than what their record suggests or did the Bulls just not play up to their potential in that series?
JH: It’s a little bit of both. On the one hand you have Indiana who is going to be good if they can keep drugging together. If you look back at when they promoted Vogel to head coach, they began to become better. They even beat the Bulls in their last regular season game so it didn’t surprise me they gave the Bulls a tough time. What surprised me is how they gave the Bulls a run for their money. If a few calls go Indiana’s way they may have taken that series a la Memphis over San Antonio. Chicago had first series jitters as well I mean they’re the best team record wise in the NBA, they’re the top seed in the East and really the team to beat and I think that startled them a bit. But by the time Game 5 rolled around they pretty much got it together.
WS: What did the Indiana Pacers do that made the series a lot tougher than what almost everyone expected?
JH: They took Derrick Rose out of the game in a few of those middle games. When he injured his ankle the Bulls were terrible. When they double teamed Rose and kept his scoring in check, the Bulls were terrible. That really set off a chain reaction to where the defense started failing and Indiana took full advantage of that. If you look back at their scoring they did it in clusters and they did it off turnovers. Those things combined to cause big time headaches for Chicago.
WS: The Atlanta Hawks had a way better record than the Indiana Pacers, but how come I get the feeling that Chicago fans are less worried about the Hawks? Would you say the Hawks are a less intimidating team than the Pacers to your Chicago Bulls?
JH: At this point, I’m not 100% sold on the Hawks being less of a worry. Bulls nation and all of pretty much the NBA expected a devastating sweep by Chicago and as soon as Game 1 happened those predictions seemed like what I always feared they’d be: delusions. That series was an eye opener and it has sobered up a lot of Chicago to not expect such devastation from the Bulls. So I think that feeling of Chicago not being worried about Atlanta is from the outside looking in. But I can understand where the notion comes from. Chicago beat the Hawks in their last two meetings by a combined 51 points, that’ll rattle anybody. But I have been saying this since the start of the playoffs when I predicted the Hawks advancing: Atlanta is not a bad team at all. People who want to illegitimize a Bulls championship run are pointing to this series and calling it easy. It’s not; the Hawks did get here with good looks, they beat an Orlando Magic team that is pretty good. So I’d say the Hawks aren’t as much intimidating as they are a worthy challenge.
WS: Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer make up one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. Who do you feel needs to have a bigger series in order to beat the Hawks?
JH: Boozer actually needs to have a good series because he didn’t make many new friends with his Houdini-esque disappearing act in the first series. The Bulls are paying him $75 million to play big in the playoffs, he hasn’t done that. He’ll play outstanding one game and then go 16 minutes and 4 points the next. It’s disgusting really when you put it on paper, he seems like a younger player still finding his footing. What Boozer needs to do is stay out of foul trouble. Game 5 was the worst example of Boozer doing that I mean he only played 16 minutes and was in trouble halfway through the second quarter. And not trouble like 2 fouls I think he had 3 or 4 at that point. Not only is he hurting himself by getting into foul trouble, he’s hurting the team by using fouls they would like to save for later in the game. When Boozer is good, he’s probably one of the best players at his position at his age. No one is going to create scoring chances like he can, but he’s not going to be able to do that if he’s on the bench and he hinders his teammates ability to play aggressive when he’s eating up fouls like Louie Anderson does to donuts.
WS: I have to say the Chicago Bulls probably have the deepest bench in the entire NBA. Omer Asik in my opinion hurt the Hawks more in the regular season than any other bench player in the Bulls. Do you believe that will continue or should I be looking out for another bench player to do more damage?
JH: Everyone should look out for the bench as a whole because when each player is used properly, they’re as dangerous as a starter. That’s all Tom Thobodeau, I liken his use of the bench to Quentin Tarantino’s use of basically bench player actors. Just like Tarantino finds actors who you sort of know and just uses them perfectly, Thibodeau uses guys like Kurt Thomas, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson so perfectly you’d think they were starters. They don’t call it the Bench Mob for nothing, every single one of them can come in and hurt you, Atlanta just saw a sample of that in the form of Asik. The Pacers saw Korver come in an bury treys in the fourth quarter of those games, Kurt Thomas came in for Joakim Noah during the season when Noah was hurt and made teams almost as afraid of him as they were of Noah. So although it was Asik during the season that hurt the Hawks, it’s really a dealer’s choice as to. Who can do it to you next; that’s why the bench is what it is to the Bulls.
WS: Your team has the Coach of the Year and the expected MVP. How much pressure is there for the Chicago Bulls to win it all this year? Will this season be called a fail if the Bulls fall past short of a championship?
JH: Some people outside of Chicago would say that, but to the players and the fans the season is already a success. The Bulls have effectively broken out of a decade long funk where they couldn’t win anything. They won 62 games which is tied for fourth best in franchise history and matches the last win total of the Jordan Championship run, they have the COY, the (probable) MVP and most importantly have this current team locked in for the better part of the next decade. So although it will be disappointing to not finish with a title after all the riches of the season, the players and fans know they’ll be back next year and the year after that and the year after that. It won’t become a failure until next year. If they get eliminated then, it will start to become a failure. But this is really the first good Bulls team since the ’98 team and if there’s no championship for Chicago this year, it will be the many opportunities in the future that numb the pain. Plus if it’s not Atlanta who knocks them out it will be either Boston or Miami which will create a rivalry of sorts, just so much hope for the future will numb the pain.
WS: The Hawks have a lot of weapons offensively. Who do you believe will hurt the Bulls the most?
JH: I truly believe it will be a three headed monster that will hurt Chicago if they don’t cotain them and that monster consists of Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Jamal Crawford. Those guys really do it all; Cawford and Johnson are offensive machines and Horford is going to scoop up the shots that miss. Chicago will need to fight for rebounds in the paint and contain Crawford’s scoring. But the guy who has the best chance to do damage is Johnson simply because he is matched up against Keith Bogans. Bogans did an alright job of playing Johnson during the season but even if Ronnie Brewer or Kyle Korver are on Johnson he could hurt the Bulls bad.
WS: Carlos Boozer probably didn’t have the type of first round he wanted. How worried are you about Boozer’s play?
JH: Boozer’s play is more frustrating than it is anything. As I said before he eats up fouls and is so hot/, hit/miss that he just infuriates fans as much as he makes them happy. If his fouls start to get out of control, Thobodeau won’t hesitate to sit Boozer in favor of Gibson. He has shown a favoritism to Gibson in the past and although Taj can’t score like Boozer, he’s a defensive presence. So I’m not as much worried as I am frustrated with Carlos Boozer.
WS: You’re a scout and you are asked to take notes on the Bulls. How do you beat the Bulls?
JH: If you want to beat the Bulls, just take the blueprints Indiana drew up for you. Take Rose out of the game and watch the pieces fall around him. If Hotlanta can use Crawford, Johnson and Horford properly against he Bulls while containing Rose and the other shooters like Korver and Deng, they have a shot. Horford needs to out rebound Noah, Crawford needs to out shoot Rose and the Hawks defense needs to press the Bulls like Indiana did but without the petty mistakes. Just perfect whatIndiana did and you’re looking at a legit shot at bouncing the Bulls.
WS: Finally, what is your prediction in this series?
JH: Honestly I think Chicago takes the series but it won’t be a 5 gamer, it’ll be 6 or maybe even 7. I just feel like Chicago will stutter out of the gate in Games 1&1 and may fall on the road in Game 3. But the determining factor is the United Center. One thing Indiana did that the other teams won’t be able to do is tloerate the noise and energy at the Madhouse. Atlanta played there twice and got blown out bad both times. That intimidating factor will stick in the Hawks minds and it’ll mess with their psyche. But the games in Atlanta will be interesting to see, there won’t be as many Bulls fans this time around, I think Atlanta fans will come out in droves to try and force a repeat of the Bulls collapse in Atlanta like the first time these teams met this year. But when it comes down to it, I think the series goes 7 with Rose taking big time control in 6 and 7 if it comes down to it. The Bulls don’t start string but once they get you in the Chicago Chokehold, you don’t get out.
Thanks to Josh Hill for participating. Again, make sure to checkout his blog: Pippen Ain’t Easy.
After the jump, a bonus little treat…
All right, your boys draw the Bulls. Give me keys for the Hawks to beat the Bulls.
Wish & Prayer. Wish that Lady Luck will be on their side and pray that a lot of things go right for them and a lot of things go wrong for the Bulls.
In all seriousness, there are a lot of things the Hawks (or any other team) need to do in order to beat this Bulls team. I think it will be a lot shorter if I give you keys for the Hawks to not get blown out by the Bulls.