Eastern Conference Round 2 Matchup: Bulls vs Hawks

Posted by By at 30 April, at 18 : 45 PM Print

Atlanta and Chicago met three times during the regular season with the Hawks winning one (83-80) and the Bulls winning the other two (94-76 & 114-81). The slate gets wiped clean starting Monday when the two meet in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Chicago is coming off a tough series that saw them eliminate the Pacers in five games, but the series was much closer than the final game count would indicate. Atlanta knocked out the Magic last night in a low-scoring, highly contested series that saw tempers flare on more than a few occasions. The Bulls are still on track for their seventh title and the Hawks are looking for their second. One team’s season will end here and one will go on. A closer look at both teams will help might help us figure out who’s got the edge.

Point Guard

Derrick Rose’s stellar season came to a bit of a halt in the first round against Darren Collison & A.J. Price. Rose shot only 37% from the floor in the series, but continued to get to the rim and the free throw line as he did during the regular season. He was 52-60 from the line in the first round and if the Atlanta has any hopes of making past Chicago they would be advised to cut that number in half, or as close to it as possible. Stopping Rose with a full head of steam to the bucket is easier said than done though so good luck to Atlanta on that one. Kirk Hinrich strained his hamstring in Atlanta’s game clinching win over Orlando and if he’s any less than 100% it could be a long series for the Hawks. Jeff Teague would end up playing major minutes and a Rose v Teague matchup screams mismatch.

Edge: Bulls

Shooting Guard

Although Keith Bogans stepped up the offense in game 5 with 15 points and 5 three-pointers, his main contribution all season has been on the defensive end. He’ll need to be at his best, or near it, to keep sharp shooting Joe Johnson under wraps. Typically the Hawks go as Johnson does so Bogans’ defense will go along way in deciding this series. Bogans’ ability to knock down open three’s means that Johnson will have to pick his moments to double-team Rose. Johnson doesn’t have the ball in his hands quite as much as he’s had in years past with Larry Drew’s new motion offense in town so Bogans will spend alot of time fighting through, over, and around screens to keep Johnson from getting open. Johnson gets the edge here and should have a solid series.

Edge: Hawks

Small Forward

Luol Deng was probably Chicago’s most consistent player in the first round and they will need nothing less than that in the second. Josh Smith has the length and leaping ability to cause Deng big time problems on the offensive end. If Smith reverts to the old Josh Smith that we saw in the first round that saw him shoot 3-15 from behind the arc, it could make Deng’s defensive job alot easier. If Smith takes Deng in the post, he could have the advantage. It’s hard to see Deng having the kind of impact he had in the series against the Pacers and if Smith is focused and plays more on the interior than the perimeter he should have a better series. As we all know those are two big ifs for Josh Smith though.

Edge: Hawks

Power Forward

Carlos Boozer’s series against Indiana was one that he would probably like to forget. If it wasn’t his jumpers not falling, it was the constant foul trouble he was in. If it wasn’t that, it was him losing his cool. Then there were the turnovers at bad times. All that aside he’s got a chance to rebound, but I’m not sure Al Horford is who you want to be facing when you’re looking to have a bounce back series. Horford shot an uncharacteristic 40% from the floor in the series against Orlando and against Boozer, who isn’t exactly known for his defense, you would think that number will be alot higher. Their skill sets on the¬†offensive end are similar and in most games they will probably end up putting up roughly the same stat lines. Both should be in the neighborhood of a double-double a night and effectively cancel each other out.

Edge: Push

Center

Joakim Noah will look at his matchup against Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia and probably breathe a mild sigh of relief. This won’t be Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster, but it won’t be a pushover. Pachulia is one of the league’s best agitators and with Noah’s energy and emotion that could lead to some tempers flaring at some point. Neither Zaza or Collins give much on the offensive end of floor so Noah will probably spend alot of time helping on Horford or Smith when/if he’s in the post. Definitely easier to see Noah having a bigger impact on this series than either of Atlanta’s big men.

Edge: Bulls

Bench

Kyle Korver was was easily Chicago’s best bench player in the first round, but will need more help this time around. Watson & Brewer were largely ineffective in their minutes. Gibson played well and figures to see more minutes in this series as does Omer Asik. It’s tough to see Boozer not getting into foul trouble against Horford so both will need to step up in his absence when it happens. The Hawks don’t have much of a bench to speak of outside of Crawford and occasionally Marvin Williams. Crawford averaged 20 a game in the series against Orlando and they’ll need that kind of production from him again if they’re going to advance again. Simply put, Marvin Williams needs to play like he did in games 5 & 6, and not 1-4. If the injury to Hinrich is serious enough to limit him early in the series and Teague is pushed into the starting lineup that means zero depth at the point guard spot, and that’s a big problem against Rose.

Edge: Bulls

Conclusion

The Bulls are now facing a team with more talent than they went up against in Indiana, but the question with the Hawks tends to be the effort they play with. Deciding which situation is tougher is hard to say. A team like the Pacers, who didn’t have the talent level, but played with maximum effort pushed the Bulls to the max. The Hawks, who have talent but don’t always play up to it, could be a major disappointment. Their first round series win against an Orlando team that embarrassed them last year has to feel good and should provide a decent spring board into the series against Chicago. Chicago hopefully learned from their first round series that you can’t take any team for granted in the playoffs and need to play for a full 48 a minutes, not just the final 6-8. The talent on the floor makes this series tough to call. I’m going to predict Bulls in 6.

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