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Sometimes the game of basketball is also a game of chess. And if you use the recently completed series between the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls as an example, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau finally forced Hawks coach Larry Drew into checkmate.
Not that it was an easy task for the first-year workaholic Chicago tactician.
Atlanta took control in the first game of the series, shocking the so-called experts with an impressive 103-95 road win. In that one, the Bulls went to single coverage on Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford and the duo combined for 56 points.
But Thibodeau quickly made the adjustment. Johnson and Crawford were never the same.
"After the first game, they just started trapping me,and Jamal, not giving us a chance to play," Johnson said shortly after the Hawks were eliminated in Game 6. "We were forced to do a lot."
But it was Drew who came up with the next adjustment, changing his lineup by going "big" with Jason Collins in the middle. That gave the Hawks the edge inside and allowed them to even up the series.
It was NBA's reigning coach of the year that put the Hawks in check by blowing the game open in an otherwise even Game 5 by going to a suffocating defensive alignment in the final quarter and took the series back to Atlanta with a 12-point win.
A combination of defense paired with a very active offense that finished off the series in Game 6 -- something that definitely wasn't lost on Atlanta's players in the locker room after the series was over. Chicago dished an astounding 34 assists on 41 field goals in a 93-73 win.
"I think they're the best team in the league," center Zaza Pachulia said after the loss. "They play like it defensively and offensively. Guys accept roles."
Of course, it also helped that the Bulls have a budding superstar in Derrick Rose, who can not only score on offense, but also dish the basketball. The NBA MVP leads all Chicago scorers with an average of 28.8 points and 9.8 assists over his first 11 playoff games.
If there's one knock on the Jekyll-and-Hyde Hawks, it's that "Team Jekyll" is very active on the court, distributes the basketball and it's that movement, that creates spacing and allows Atlanta's shots to fall. When those shots fall, it's a heck of a lot easier to get set on defense.
"Team Hyde" is less active offensively. They take bad and rushed shots. Their transition game suffers and the other team gets easy buckets in transition.
In the NBA, that's usually the difference between winning and losing. Especially against a good team like the Bulls in a hotly contested chess match in the postseason.
"We've been preaching all year long about ball movement and spacing," Drew said. "You have to space the floor, you have to move the ball, you have to force the defense to shift. And then you have to look to attack. You cannot settle against a team like (the Bulls). They zero in on that pretty well."
Unfortunately for Atlanta, they did just that on Thursday and for the third consecutive year, they will be "goin' fishing" after making it to the second round.
Josh Smith, for one, thinks the future is bright for Atlanta's basketball team.
"This team does (have more than second-round talent)," he said. "We're a veteran group. We understand and know what it takes in order to be successful. We maybe need a little more added help, and we'll be fine."
The Atlanta Hawks didn't exactly look like that version of the Hawks that we all dread -- the Chicago Bulls' 93-73 Game 6 victory was just that imposing. The Hawks fell back on many of their worst habits, of course, but they've looked much worse while still avoiding this kind of blowout.
Chicago advances to take on the Miami Heat in their first Eastern Conference Finals trip since the Michael Jordan years. The defense-centric, team-minded squad led by MVP Derrick Rose vs. Chris Bosh and LeBron James ... I think your rooting interests are pretty clearly defined, America, but I'm kind of starting to like Chris Bosh for some reason.
Carlos Boozer was given free run through Atlanta's defense, left alone for much of the night as he shot his way to 23 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Derrick Rose pitched 12 assists in perhaps Jeff Teague's shakiest game as a starter, albeit one that involved the Hawks point guard leaving with a sprained wrist.
Al Horford was invisible, turning in seven points and four rebounds, while Josh Smith filled up his stat line but showed anybody who thought he'd gotten over taking poor jumpers that ... well, he hasn't. Zaza Pachulia balled out -- 13 rebounds, nothing easy.
This Hawks' postseason will be remembered by too many as as failure. This team exorcised its Orlando Magic demons, found its best point guard in over a decade just sitting right there on the bench and took the potential NBA champs to six games. That's a success, though whether it was worth Joe Johnson's contract is an issue I'll leave to you.
The Atlanta Hawks need a lifeline if they want to avoid goin' fishin' this season.
Carlos Boozer has 25 points and Derrick Rose added 15 points and 10 assists to post the Chicago Bulls to a 70-53 lead over Atlanta through three quarters in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup on Saturday night at Philips Arena.
That in a nutshell is why things look bleak in Atlanta. Chicago is shredding the Hawks' defense, making the extra pass and draining shots. The result is a game that's teetering on a blowout. In a game that's based on intensity, the Bulls did what they had to do to come out with it in the third quarter. It's looking like the curtain is going to fall on the Hawks' season.
If the Atlanta Hawks do end up losing this Game 6, one thing's for sure, they won't go down without a fight.
Carlos Boozer has 13 points and Derrick Rose and Luol Deng added nine each to post the Chicago Bulls to a 45-35 lead over Atlanta in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Let's just say that it's amazing that Atlanta still even has the remotest of chances in this one. They looked like a defeated team, very much deflated and downtrodden.
But second-year point guard sensation Jeff Teague -- who got hurt 53 seconds into the second quarter -- came into the game to give the Hawks a spark. And then Smith happened.
The Atlanta forward stole the ball, ran the court with Johnson and finished with an alley-oop where the Hawks star took off from Winnipeg to cut what was once a 42-25 lead down to 12.
One has to wonder if this young Bulls team is a bit rattled. Remember Hawks fans, this same Atlanta team rallied back from a 20-plus point deficit to win the first game between these two teams by an 83-80 score on March 2. There's no reason not to believe if they look like the club that closed out the second half that they could do it again.
Yes, folks there's hope at Philips Arena with the basketball team. Here's to hoping that the same will happen for the hockey team as well. While Smith's shots should come from Winnipeg, the Atlanta Thrashers shouldn't move there.
The sensational point guard, who has been a sparkplug for Atlanta in their best-of-seven second round against the Chicago Bulls, appeared to hurt his right arm when he landed awkwardly while slashing to the hoop.
After getting helped off by the trainers, he went to the locker room for X-Rays. While the tests are still pending according to ESPN, the team expects the Teague to return.
Obviously, Hawks fans will be sitting with baited breath until they see Teague back in the game. And with results still pending they have reason to worry.
As if they didn't have enough to worry about right now. The Hawks are down 39-25 with 5:05 left in the second quarter. They're going to need a lot of help if they want to avoid going fishin' after this game.
Things aren't starting very well for the Atlanta Hawks.
Carlos Boozer has nine points and Luol Deng seven to post the charging Chicago Bulls to a 27-17 lead through one quarter in pivotal Game Six of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup at Philips Arena.
Atlanta also shot well, connecting on 8-of-16 shots (50-percent) in the frame, but Atlanta seems to be missing that something extra tonight.
However, keep this in mind Hawks fans, the team that lead after one quarter has won every game of the series. That doesn't bode well for Atlanta's basketball team.
Here's to hoping that they break the trend or the Hawks will be going home tonight.
The Chicago Bulls pulled away from the Atlanta Hawks late in Game 5, winning 95-83 to take a 3-2 lead. Thursday night in Atlanta thus becomes a quite lit'ral must-win for the Hawks, who put a scare into the Bulls and led in the fourth before collapsing offensively down the stretch.
Derrick Rose didn't shoot all that well, but drew 13 free throws worth of fouls on his way to 33 points and nine assists. Again, Jeff Teague can either provide the team's entire offense, or he can try to stay in Rose's way for over 42 minutes. He can't outscore Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Al Horford and Josh Smith every night and be expected to contain the NBA MVP.
The Hawks have played with heart two games in a row. If they can do it one more time, a hopefully fierce Highlight Factory crowd can help send the series to Game 7, which by itself would exceed just about any expectation anybody had for these Hawks.
Josh Smith went for the monster jam to cut the Chicago lead to 62-61 with 4:07 left and hung on the rim a tad too long perhaps in part to make sure that he didn't land on a Bulls player that fell down in the paint. When he came down, Carlos Boozer was there to shove an elbow in J-Smoove's mug.
Smith followed with a shove before the two were quickly separated. Here's a video of the exchange.
Atlanta's young highlight-providing forward was still miffed at Boozer after the game, telling the AJC's Jeff Schultz the following after the game:
"I dunked the basketball, I go to turn and he just cleared me with an elbow to the jaw," Smith said. "Nobody is going to do that to me, I don’t care who you are. I’m a man first."
Those sound like fighting words.
Chicago took a 3-2 lead in the series, setting up what should be a brutal elimination game on Thursday night at the Highlight Factory. Let's just say it will be interesting to see what happens if the game gets out of hand.
Derrick Rose had 33 points and nine assists and Taj Gibson netted 11 in the crucial final quarter as Chicago charged to a hard-fought 95-83 win over Atlanta in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup on Tuesday night at the United Center.
The Hawks must now close out the series with two consecutive wins over a Bulls team that hasn't lost back-to-back games since early February -- a very tough road, indeed.
Atlanta clawed back into this one, erasing a 15 point deficit with a strong and somewhat testy third quarter, which included a skirmish between Josh Smith and Boozer. Smith, who sparred with Boozer after a dunk cut the lead to 61-60 with 4:07 left in the third, drained a 22-foot jumper to give Atlanta a 64-63 lead with 1:45 left in the frame.
The Hawks posted their last lead on Zaza Pachulia's jumper late in the third before one of the league's best team decided to play a little defense. Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau went with a lineup that included Rose, Deng, Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik down the stretch against a tired Hawks team that simply did not have an answer.
Chicago went on an 11-2 run to take a 78-70 edge on a layup by Rose with 8:29 left and never looked back. The Hawks went to their tried-and-failed take-a-bad-jumper offense and wilted down the stretch. As the pressure mounted, the shot selection was lacking. The passes were not as crisp. The rotation not as sharp. The baskets came too early. As a result, the Hawks will have the unenviable task of trying to close out the No. 1 seeded Bulls with two straight wins.
Yes, the Hawks were victimized on a bad non-call when Jeff Teague stole the ball and was tackled by Rose and could have gotten back into the game there. But fans of Atlanta's basketball team can not fault the refs for their team's fourth quarter demise. The Hawks simply did not make the adjustments they needed to when the Bulls ratcheted up the pressure on defense.
For a while, this one looked like it was going to be a battle. Smith was effective inside, posting 16 points in this one. Once again, Teague had a strong game, netting 21. And also Atlanta got an unexpected performance from Pachulia. Zaza, who scored just 12 points in the first four games of the series, finished with 13. He was most effective in the second quarter as a 15-point deficit was whittled down to just six at the break.
Atlanta's two offensive spark plugs were silenced once again by Chicago's help defense. Johnson and Crawford connected for just 17 points on 7-for-24 shooting from the field in this one, which is definitely not enough to get the job done.
The Hawks are a team that live and die by the jumper and the energy that Johnson and Crawford provide. Without that in this one, Atlanta could not withstand a late Chicago run. As a result, it's the Bulls that have a chance to close out the series in Game 6 on Thursday night at the Highlight Factory.
Things are getting a bit chippy in Game 5 at the United Center. Yep, it's definitely looking like there's going to be a very good finish in this one.
Unlike the other four games in this series, it's turning into a gritty defensive struggle late. There's a lot of contact and there are definitely some battles going on both on and off the court. And they almost came to blows.
Smith went to the rim and dunked the basketball to cut the Chicago lead to 61-60 with 4:07 left, but dangled on the rim a little too long for the liking of Carlos Boozer. For whatever reason, Boozer threw a forearm at J-Smoove and Smith retaliated with a shove. Both players were separated by their respective coaches before getting ejected.
They both will be playing with technical fouls, however.
This may be the Hawks' night. Atlanta took its first lead of the game on a 22-foot jumper by Smith with 1:45 left and even Zaza Pachulia is red-hot from the field, draining jumpers to keep Atlanta in this game.
Carlos Boozer and Keith Bogans have 11 each for Chicago, which has just four points from its non-existent bench.
The Hawks will have to continue to excel on defense, keep sharing the basketball and take good shots if they want to win this game. They have 17 assists on 29 field goals through the first 36 minutes.
If the Atlanta Hawks figure out a way to win Game 5, Hawks fans are going to have to thank one of the unlikeliness of heroes.
The Hawks chipped away at what was an 11-point deficit with some solid play by Pachulia in the frame. The Atlanta center connected on 4 of 5 shots and 3 of 4 free throws as the Hawks willed their way back into the game with a gritty second quarter.
Atlanta entered the half on the precipice of making this one a ballgame.
Johnson has had trouble finding his game in this one, posting six points on 2-for-7 shooting from the field. Also MIA is Jamal Crawford, who has just two points in the first half.
The Hawks have their inside game working and Al Horford has his touch from mid-range. If the jumpers start falling for Johnson and Crawford, it could be one of those nights where Atlanta sneaks away with a win. Of course, that's a big "if." The Bulls defense has been solid getting in the fact of Johnson and Crawford and making their looks difficult, just like in Games 2 and 3.
This one seems to be slipping away from the Atlanta Hawks early.
Luol Deng netted 11 points and Derrick Rose added nine to post the Chicago Bulls to a 32-21 lead through one quarter in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup at the United Center on Tuesday.
The Hawks seem a step slow in this one on defense. As expected, the Bulls made an adjustment in the paint and the Hawks are having trouble in the post. Couple that with Atlanta taking some tough jumpers, and the Hawks find themselves down by double-digits in this one.
Atlanta came out of the gate slow as Deng scored Chicago's first seven points in a 10-2 run to start the game. Atlanta pushed it back to as little as 3 on a bucket by Josh Smith, but the Bulls pulled away to close out the frame.
Smith has six points, but sat for the last four minutes of the first quarter after picking up his second foul.
Al Horford has four points -- both on jumpers.
Kirk Hinrich's right hamstring injury has started to show signs of improvement, enabling the former Atlanta Hawks starting point guard to work through "very simple" exercises. He doesn't want to discount the possibility of suiting up for Sunday's potential Game 7, but coach Larry Drew is doubtful Hinrich will be able to make it back in time ... for this series DUN DUN DUN.
Not that Hinrich's defensive contributions wouldn't be invaluable in helping to contain Derrick Rose while giving Jeff Teague frequent breaks, but it would be awkward to see Hinrich back in the lineup and coming off the bench so soon after holding the starting job. He ... he would be coming off the bench, right?
The Hawks might already be out of this series if it weren't for Teague. Hinrich may have been able to do just as good a job against his former team as Teague has, but I'd be nervous about what coach Drew might do with a healthy Hinrich at this point in the year. That said, here's hoping he can return to play more basketball with the Hawks this postseason.
Josh Smith went into beast mode. Al Horford had his best game of the series and Joe Johnson was doing what Joe Johnson does best -- draining shots from downtown. When the Atlanta Hawks play this style of basketball, it is not only fun to watch, but it is also lethal for the other team.
The Hawks are going to need a similar effort from their "big three" on Tuesday if they want to come back to Atlanta in position to close out the series.
Atlanta returned to ChiTown with a little bit of confidence and a bit of swagger after upsetting the Bulls 100-88 in Game 4 on their home court to level the series at 2-2.
The win assured the Hawks of another home game this season. It also marked the first time the Hawks have gone this far in the second round since Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird dueled in an epic seven-game series back in 1988.
Atlanta got it done in Game 4 by starting with that same "big" lineup that upset the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. The result was a much more physical Atlanta team that smacked Rose when he drove the lane and boxed out Joakim Noah on the offensive boards. Those minor adjustments allowed Atlanta to remain competitive in the game and pull away late, thanks in part to a 23 point, 16 rebound, eight assist performance by the enigmatic Smith.
The Hawks were in that one because they remained within themselves. Smith and Horford were effective in the paint. Johnson had his shot going from deep.
Atlanta coach Larry Drew has been coy as to whether he's going to stick with his "big" lineup in Game 5, although he hinted early Tuesday that he may stick with it. But do not expect the Bulls to sit back and not make the necessary adjustments. This series has turned into a bit of a chess match between Drew and NBA coach of the year Tom Thibodeau, both of whom have made slight tweaks to the game plan after each game.
For example, when Johnson and Jamal Crawford were effective in Game 1, Thibodeau went to the double-team. After Rose poured in 44 in Game 3, Drew started rotating a help defender to the NBA MVP on just about all of his touches.
Look for Chicago to try to close down the paint in this one and go back to more of the same where Johnson gets swarmed with a double-team every time he touches the ball.
As always, Atlanta's success will largely depend on the team's ability to run the iso-Joe offense, have Smith stay within his game and the jump shots fall. They also have to figure out a way to neutralize Chicago on the boards and pester Rose, who will most likely shoot much better than in his 12-for-32 performance in Game 4.
If Atlanta can do that, they may be able to shock the world and bring this series back home with a chance to clinch it in Game 6. (Much like this scribe predicted.) If not, it will be a long road to tow for Atlanta's basketball team, which would need to win a pair of games to clinch the series. Either way, the Hawks are playing with house cash. Not many expected them to make it this far.
Ah, playoff basketball. It doesn't get much more exciting than this.
As a result, Atlanta's series against the Chicago Bulls will be the only basketball game running on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and as a result, will be smack dab at the beginning of "prime time."
Tuesday's Game 5 matchup at the United Center will be played at 8 p.m. Eastern time on TNT. Those with tickets for Game 6 at Philips Arena in Atlanta can also expect an 8 p.m. Eastern tip for what will be an elimination game for either the Hawks or the Bulls. That game will be on ESPN. Both games will be broadcast on flagship station 97.9 FM and the rest of the Hawks Radio Network.
The only game time that's not determined as of yet is that of the still if-necessary Game 7 in the Windy City. The tipoff time of Sunday's still starred game will depend on whether the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies goes the distance. That game is scheduled to be on TNT.
Eleven games into the postseason and there's a common thread for the Atlanta Hawks. Once again, they in that tried-and-true role of underdog in an NBA playoff basketball game.
Atlanta was installed a nine-point chalk in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at the United Center. However, in some of the offshore and Vegas books, the public seems to be slightly favoring Atlanta as the spread has moved up slightly to one of Hawks +8.5. The over/under is up slightly to the 181 point range.
The spread is pretty much unchanged from the first two games in Chicago, where the number was in the 8-9 point range for each game. The Hawks were 1-1 against the spread and 1-1 straight up in Games 1 and 2 in Chicago.
However, the underlying trend is one that has favored those betting on Atlanta's basketball team. The Hawks are 7-3 ATS and 6-4 SU over their first 10 playoff games. That means if you've bet the Hawks in each of those games, you've crushed your bookie, especially if you took them on the money line.
However, most of that success came in the Hawks' round 1 upset of the Orlando Magic. Atlanta is just 2-2 against the spread and 2-2 straight up in the series with the Bulls. In Atlanta's two wins, they've been very, very good. In the two losses, the Hawks have been very, very bad.
Your guess is as good as mine whether the good or the bad Hawks teams shows up in Chicago on Tuesday. This team has been a tad bit erratic. And that's an understatement.
Cross off another batch of experts, as the Atlanta Hawks have forced at least a six-game series against the No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls by winning 100-88 Sunday night. Atlanta kept Game 4 close through the first 45 minutes or so before running away with the final few, scoring 10 straight points off of dunks or layups before Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford finished the Bulls off.
Josh Smith played one of the most up-and-down games of his career, finishing with an imposing 23-point, 16-rebound, eight-assist (and so on) box score, but hurling so many of his unpopular deep two-pointers that he earned national scorn from Charles Barkley at halftime.
Derrick Rose once again filled up his stat sheet, but some are concerned with how many shots he took in crunch time. His runners came up short when the Bulls needed points the most -- could Tom Thibodeau's decision to play Rose for the entire 48 have ended up costing Chicago the game?
The best part: if the Hawks can steal one more United Center victory, they'll have a chance to close out the series at the Highlight Factory and reach their first-ever Eastern Conference Finals. We're getting ahead of ourselves. Updated series schedule:
The Highlight Factory was abuzz with chants of "ATL! ATL!" as the hometown Atlanta Hawks dribbled out the basketball in the final seconds of a successful Game 4.
Josh Smith, who had a game for the ages, brushed his hands over the word "Hawks" on his jersey, signaling that Atlanta's basketball team is back in this series. All it took was 23 points,16 boards and eight assists from the Hawks' enigmatic leader to get them there.
Smith had his best game of the postseason and Joe Johnson added 24 to lead the Hawks to a shocking 100-88 win over the Chicago Bulls in their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup on Sunday night at Philips Arena.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Smith told TNT's David Aldridge afterward. "I'm an athletic person. I have to go up strong and if I get fouled, I have to drain my free throws."
Atlanta and Chicago were engaged in an intense battle down the stretch and were locked in an 84-84 tie with 4:31 left in the game when Derrick Rose, who was not given his customary fourth quarter blow, drove to the rim for a layup. But the Hawks, who couldn't quite get the separation they needed to pull away in this one, dug down deep and had one last run in them.
Teague slashed to the hoop. Horford converted at the bucket and Crawford drained a 3-pointer as the Hawks closed out Game 4 with a 16-4 run for the much-needed win.
In the middle of it all was Smith, who was dishing the basketball, hitting the shot in the block and providing energy on both sides of the floor by grabbing the loose ball. The Hawks are at their best when J-Smoove is playing within himself and for the most part in this one, he was playing his game.
As a result, Atlanta won a second round playoff game at home for the first time since Game 4 against the Orlando Magic in 1996 and postseason basketball will be coming back to the Highlight Factory at least one more time this season.
"We know what (Smith) brings to the table," a jubilant Hawks coach Larry Drew said afterward. "When he's rebounding and running the floor and pushing the basketball, that's who he is. He has an ability, a very unique ability, he has an ability to impact the game on both sides of the floor. When he's playing energized basketball, he's really good. And tonight he was that."
Atlanta will also return to Chicago on Tuesday with renewed confidence that they can control the inside game and keep Rose in check.
While Rose got his points, posting a game-high 34, he was pestered all night with a double and triple team and connected on just 12 of an astounding 32 tries from the field. Carlos Boozer played well, posting 18 points and Luol Deng added 13, but the rest of the Bulls were held under the double-digit mark in a game where Chicago desperately needed another go-to guy to step up in the trenches.
Smith, for one, likes Atlanta's chances if they continue to button up Rose on D.
"No," Smith tersely answered when asked by Aldridge whether Chicago could beat them without the league's MVP at the top of his game. "Rose is an outstanding player. He's an MVP player. Without (him having) the ball in their plan, it slows down the offense a little bit. We have to get the ball out of his hands more and let the other guys beat us."
In order to disrupt Rose and control the boards, Atlanta went big in the onset of this one, starting Jason Collins at center, sliding Horford to the four, Smith to the three and Marvin Williams to the bench in an attempt to create some energy that was lacking in Games 2 and 3. And much like in their six-game first round win over the Magic, the move to the "big" lineup paid dividends as the Hawks slowed down Rose in the paint and used their size advantage to even up the edge on the glass.
By the end of it, an Atlanta team that was -32 on the boards in their last two games, finished this one with a more respectable 37-36 Chicago edge on the glass. That's something that gives Smith and the Hawks a bit of confidence when they head back to the Windy City to try to wrestle back the home court edge in Game 5.
"We (won there) before," Smith said of the team's confidence going back to ChiTown. "It's not like a mission we can't accomplish. We know we can compete with this team. We're going to be in a dogfight come Tuesday."
Zaza Pachulia had five points and nine boards for Atlanta, which shot 49-percent (40-for-81) from the field.
Derrick Rose has 21 points and helped ignite an 8-0 run that posted the Bulls to a 69-67 lead through three quarters in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup on Sunday night at Philips Arena.
Atlanta has played well in spurts in this one, taking as much as an eight point lead in this one. But each time the Hawks look to extend the lead to double-digits, the Bulls call time out and push their way back into it. The same exact thing happened to close out the fourth quarter.
Atlanta had all sort of issues to end the half as Chicago scored four straight buckets to take a narrow two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bulls are getting it done without much from the field from Rose, who has connected on just 6 of 20 through three frames. That's helped keep the Chicago portion of the crowd down a bit and the "MVP" chants have been kept to a minimum.
Carlos Boozer has 18 points and Luol Deng for the Bulls, who are shooting 39-percent (24-for-61) through the first 36 minutes of basketball. However, Chicago has gone ice cold from beyond the 3-point line, where they have connected on just 3-for-14 in the game.
Josh Smith swatted a Derrick Rose shot and went deep into the post on the other side of the floor. As the defense drew near, he kicked it to Joe Johnson, who drained a pivotal 3-pointer. Now that's the type of Atlanta Hawks basketball that we need to see.
Johnson has 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field and Smith netted nine points and grabbed eight boards to lead the Hawks to a 47-46 edge over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup on Sunday night at Philips Arena.
Derrick Rose has 13 points for the Bulls, who shot 39-percent (16-for-41) in the first 24 minutes.
Atlanta looks much better in this one, playing inside out, getting help on Rose and limiting Chicago's second chance points by doing a decent job on the boards. But they still seem to be that bad Atlanta team when they right on the verge of taking a double-digit lead. You know that team the one that takes and misses bad jumpers, which leads to easy Chicago buckets in transition.
Smith has been very, very good inside, but has been terrible from outside. So bad that he was mocked by Charles Barkley at the break. The TNT commentator came on the air with a "test dumbie" helmet to describe just how wild J-Smoove's long distance offerings are. (Yes, the misspelling of dummy was likely intentional).
The Philips Arena crowd is very much into it as well, groaning no each time Smith lines up for an ill-advised jumper -- responding with a chant of "noooooo," kinda reminiscent of the scene from "Forest Gump" when a collegiate Gump is told to "stop" after making it to the end zone.
Outside of a bad shot here or there, the Hawks are under much more control in this one. The defense is generally good. Rose is getting pestered and banged and Atlanta is playing a solid game. Yes, Jeff Teague missed a few easy runners in the lane and Damien Wilkins blew a dunk to end the half, but the Hawks are in this one and look poised to at least not embarrass themselves on their home floor.
The Atlanta Hawks knew that they had to come out and play with energy. So far, so good through the first 12 minutes at Philips Arena.
The Hawks went big in this one, putting Collins in the middle and moving Al Horford to the four and Smith to the three. At least through the first quarter in Atlanta, that has helped address some of the defensive lapses that plagued the Hawks in Games 2 and 3 of the series.
Atlanta is only losing the battle of the boards 11-9. They also are double and even triple teaming Derrick Rose, who went off for 44 points in Game 3. Thus far, it's worked. Rose has six points, but is just 1-for-5 from the field. The bulk of his points have come from the free throw line as the Hawks bigs have punished the NBA's MVP each time he's driven into the lane.
Meanwhile, Chicago has given Johnson a bit of room to operate with. As a result, the five-time Atlanta All-Star is back to nailing jumpers again. So is Smith, which may or may not bode well for Atlanta's basketball team.
The Hawks connected at a 54-percent (13-for-24) clip in the first quarter. The Hawks will need to keep up the energy if they are going to prevail in this one.
Drew told the AJC's Michael Cunningham that he is thinking with going with his "big" lineup with either Jason Collins or Zaza Pachulia in the middle when the series resumes on Sunday night in Atlanta. As is customary, Marvin Williams will head on over to the bench, Josh Smith will slide on over to the three and Al Horford will play the four.
With the exception of Teague, who is playing in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich, this is essentially the lineup that helped Atlanta to a series victory against the Orlando Magic. It would mark a fundamental shift for how Atlanta has played the first three games of the series with Chicago where the club has played some of it in an ultra-small formation of Johnson, Teague and Jamal Crawford.
But while Teague has played very well in the first three games of the series, Johnson and Crawford have struggled after their 56-point performance in Game 1. And Atlanta has been crushed on the boards.
Perhaps slowing down the tempo and getting physical down low in the post is a way to win the battle of the boards again and slow down Rose, who torched Atlanta for 44 points in Game 3.
Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and the Hawks look to break through as they try to figure out a scheme to front the Chicago Bulls superstar when the two teams square off on Sunday night at Philips Arena (8:00 p.m. EDT, TNT, 97.9 FM).
Atlanta simply has had no answer to contain Rose, who went off for 44 in Chicago's embarrassing 99-82 win over the Hawks on Atlanta's home court on Friday. The Hawks simply had no answer for Rose, who was scoring early and often from all around the floor.
Whether it was pulling up and launching a jumper or slashing into the lane with ease, Rose shredded second-year point guard Jeff Teague en route to a career-best night in arguably the most pivotal game yet for the youngest MVP in league history.
If Atlanta wants to go back to Chicago with any chance in this series, they are going to have to figure out a way to slow down Rose in Game 4. However, the trick is that they are going to also have to figure out a way to slow down Chicago's other weapons in the process.
The Hawks lost on Friday not only because of a sensational scoring night from Rose, but they also lost because their interior defense was terrible. For the second consecutive game, Atlanta let Joakim Noah roam free in the paint, where again-and-again he was there to clean the glass and grab a key offensive rebound.
It's hard enough beating a stacked Bulls team if you are on a level playing field, but when you give Chicago second chances, any chance you have of winning the game goes out the window.
Of course, it didn't help that Atlanta couldn't get the job done on the other side of the floor, either. Ever since Johnson and Crawford went off for 56 points in Game 1's opener, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has made sure that just about every time they touch the ball, a second Chicago player gets over there to contest the shot.
As a result, Johnson and Crawford's production has fallen precipitously, as have the Hawks' chances in the series.
Johnson has clearly grown frustrated with the double team and coach Larry Drew's assertion that he has to work his way through his shooting difficulties by giving up the basketball.
"They want me to give it up, but we can't win like that," Johnson told Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. "We've got to start doing what got us here."
That would be great in a perfect world, but it's going to be difficult for Johnson to combat the double team if Atlanta continues to do what got them here. Hawks fans know all too well that Atlanta's shooters will take tough shots instead of giving up the basketball when faced with adversity.
The correct basketball move is to push the ball to the open man and drive to the hoop. Once you establish the post game and make Chicago pay for doubling Johnson and Crawford, the looks will open up on the outside. The Hawks must also go back to a defense where they punish the Bulls for taking it to the hoop. That physical Atlanta team that pestered the heck out of the Orlando Magic has been missing in action the first three games of this series.
Look for a more physical, desperate Hawks team in Game 4 at the Bulb. Atlanta knows that if they do not win this one, they are sunk in the series and can ill afford a repeat of Games 2 and 3's disappointing performances.
The Atlanta Hawks are on a bit of an ATS losing streak. After covering the spread in six of their first seven playoff games games, they have been on the wrong side of the money in their last two games against the Chicago Bulls. Thus, it comes as no surprise that they are an underdog once again in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup in Atlanta.
The oddsmakers have installed the Bulls as 3 point favorites for their Sunday night matchup against the Hawks. The public has pushed the number even more out of kilter. If you want to grab Chicago for tomorrow night's 8 p.m. tilt at Philips Arena, you will probably have to lay 3 1/2 points. And as we all know, that 1/2 point can be the difference between a push and a loss in NBA games that usually settle around the number at the wire.
Nevertheless, Atlanta's basketball team has still won you a nice bit of change in the postseason. Atlanta is 6-3 against the spread and 5-4 straight up over their first nine playoff games. Since the Hawks have been underdogs in each of those games, those betting Atlanta on the money line are up a good amount.
The over/under for Sunday's contest is somewhere between 178.5 and 179. Game 3 looked well destined for the over early on and managed to just eke over the number by the end of it.
Derrick Rose had is shot going from Inside, outside and all around the floor. All that was separating the Chicago Bulls star from the antics of some guy named Michael Jordan was that other guy's signature tongue wag.
Yes folks, another Bulls budding superstar controlled a game in the ATL and the Atlanta Hawks simply didn't have a chance.
Rose set a career-high with 44 points to lead the Bulls to an easy 99-82 win over the Hawks in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup on Friday night at Philips Arena.
Chicago lead from the start and Rose imposed his will against an Atlanta team that couldn't get anything going from outside.
How quickly did Atlanta coach Larry Drew know that his Hawks team was in trouble in this one?
Less than a minute into the game. Chicago scored the first four points on rather easy buckets while Atlanta just sat around the perimeter as the iso-Joe offense turned into the iso-no-one-moves-around offense. Johnson took a tough shot and Drew called a time out before the Hawks could get another touch on offense.
It didn't matter. Chicago took a quick 9-3 lead and never really looked back. The Hawks were beat down by Rose; and when the league's MVP was on the bench, they were beat down by Bulls reserves like Korver and Gibson too.
By the end of this one, those "MVP" chants by the pro-Chicago contingent in the sold-out Philips Arena crowd got louder and louder. And Hawks fans lost their will to counter those cheers with those of "Let's Go Hawks."
Yep, it was yet another epic night for the visiting team and their fans at a postseason game in the transient city of Atlanta.
Two Hawks players had decent nights on Friday. Jeff Teague lead Atlanta with 21 points -- but it's not like Rose will be getting any Defensive Player of the Year awards anytime soon. After taking a couple of ill-advised jumpers and getting serenaded with "Noooo"s from the Philips Arena crowd, Josh Smith finally took it to the hoop, notching 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
But it was not enough for a Hawks team that simply didn't have an answer for Rose.
The NBA Most Valuable Player ended his night to "MVP" chants when he was taken out of the game with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter. He finished 16-for-27 from the field, 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and 8-for-9 from the charity stripe while adding seven assists and five boards.
Atlanta was terrible defending the 3-point line as Chicago made 10-of-20 from beyond the arc, and once again, this Hawks team forgot how to box out in the paint.
Joakim Noah was left unchecked near the offensive glass and grabbed eight offensive rebounds for a Chicago team that held an 18-9 edge on the offensive glass and a 47-39 advantage on the boards.
It's tough enough to beat Rose and the No. 1 seed Bulls if you defend and rebound, but when you lose those kind of battles, you simply do not have a chance.
Couple that with a Bulls defense that held Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson to 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting from the field and this one ended up as another one of those terrible Hawks losses on their home court. A game, which included a Pape Sy sighting. He actually recorded a point in garbage time down the stretch.
Rose has 34 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field to post the Chicago Bulls to a commanding 80-63 lead over the Hawks through three quarters in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup at Philips Arena on Friday.
This one is all about the league's youngest MVP ever, who is putting on a clinic against a Hawks team that doesn't seem to have an answer how to front the budding Bulls star. Shots are falling inside, outside and all around the floor for Rose, who simply can't be contained.
On the other side of the court, Chicago has clamped down on Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, by either doubling or trapping Atlanta's top two shooters. As a result, the Hawks are relying on guys like Jeff Teague and Josh Smith. And while Teague has a team-high 19 and Smith has looked better, crashing the paint for 14 points, the Hawks simply look overmatched.
Atlanta's shooting 47-percent (26-for-55) from the field and has made just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
They are also getting destroyed inside, losing the battle of the boards 37-24. Joakim Noah is all over the glass, grabbing 11 boards through three quarters.
Johnson has 10 points and Marvin Williams eight for Atlanta, which simply has no chance of winning this game.
Rose has 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting from the field to lead the Bulls to a 56-43 edge over the Hawks at the break in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup at Philips Arena.
The Hawks are struggling with their outside game in this one and are even having trouble getting buckets inside.
The good news, however, is that they started to get things going a little bit with Al Horford in the post late, which at least is a start if they are to climb back from this double-digit deficit. Horford was having all sorts of problems scoring down low, missing his first six shots before converting on two late in the second frame.
Atlanta's tightened up on the boards a little bit, but still trail 24-16 at the break. They still need a better effort inside from Horford and Smith if they want to win this basketball game.
Give credit to the Bulls in this one for disrupting Atlanta's offensive game, doubling Johnson and making it difficult for Atlanta to drive to the basket. For Atlanta to climb back into this one, they are going to need to dig deep and get a big second half from Horford or Josh Smith.
And J-Smoove needs to simply stop taking bad shots and focus on crashing the paint. He's getting the business fro the Hawks home crowd each time he launches one of those ill-advised jumpers.
Rose tied a career playoff high with 17 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 29-23 edge over the Hawks through one quarter at Philips Arena.
Chicago came out of the gate in this one ready, posting nine of the game's first 12 points to seize control. Things got so bad for Atlanta early on that coach Larry Drew called time out less than a minute in after the Hawks showed nothing on defense and stood around while Joe Johnson was forced to take a bad shot.
While the Hawks have been somewhat better since then, they still are having trouble boxing out the Bulls in the low post. As a result, Chicago is getting too many second and third chances and making Atlanta pay.
Rose has been serenaded at times with that familiar "MVP" chant at Atlanta's home rink. But there are enough Hawks fans there, for now, to drain out those chants.
Jeff Teague has shown why Rose will never be a defensive MVP, blowing past D-Rose for an Atlanta-leading nine points. But the rest of the team has struggled a bit.
Atlanta shot 56-percent (10-for-18) in the frame, but still trail by six. They're going to have to figure out a way to reestablish the boards in this one if they want to have a chance in this game. With home court at stake, one has to think that the Hawks will eventually elevate their game at some point. Time will tell.
Josh Smith hasn't exactly been the Atlanta Hawks MVP so far in this Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Chicago Bulls, becoming a clear liability in Game 2 due to awful shot selection and spotty effort. He's apparently decided Bulls forward Carlos Boozer has likewise held his own team back, telling CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam on the subject of Boozer's turf toe injury:
At this point and time, everybody's hurt, so you really can't use anything as excuse. You've just got to play. Bottom line," said Smith, who believes Boozer appears to be "pretty much the same" as before his recent injury.
Al Horford vs. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose vs. Jeff Teague are the marquee matchups in this series, but the step-it-up battle between Smith and Boozer could be the one that swings the series in Friday night's game.
The Atlanta Hawks are still not getting no respect from the Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Oddsmakers have installed the Hawks as 3 point underdogs for their Game 3 matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at Philips Arena. However, the public has shaved a 1/2 point off of the Bulls' edge. In most places, you will be able to get the Hawks at +2.5 right now. The over/under in the game is 178 points.
The Hawks' underdog role should not come as a surprise for anyone who has looked at this kind of thing carefully in the playoffs. Atlanta has played nine games so far in the postseason and have not been favored by Vegas in a single, solitary game.
Nevertheless, if you had faith in the Hawks, you have a ton of cash in your pocket to show for it. Atlanta is 6-2 against the spread in the postseason and 5-3 straight up. Their only two ATS losses came in grand Hawks style, a 25-point setback in Game 5 against the Orlando Magic and a 13-point setback in Game 2 of the Hawks-Bulls series.
If you bet the Hawks on the money line, they will fetch you $120 for every $100 you wager if they win. Every $140 bet on Chicago will return $100 if the favored Bulls pull off the W.
But the iso-Joe offense turned into that familiar iso-no spread in Game 2, after Chicago attacked the 5-time Atlanta All-Star with a double-team. Johnson's shots were limited, so the Hawks had to rely on other players to pick up the slack.
Jeff Teague did his part, posting 21 points in Atlanta's ugly 86-73 loss, but the rest of the team relied too much on the jumper as fundamental basketball fell to the wayside.
It was Smith that drew the ire of coach Drew afterward. According to hoopdata.com, six of Smith's 14 shots came from beyond 16 feet. He didn't connect on a single try. That lead Drew to talk to J-Smoove for about the zillionith time of playing within his game.
The other not-so-good thing to come out of Game 2 was the emergence of Joakim Noah. Chicago held a ridiculous 58-39 edge on the glass and a lot of it was due to the play of Horford's former Florida teammate Noah. The two-time collegiate national champion finished with 19 points and 14 boards, seven of which came on the offensive glass.
Chicago's advantage on the boards helped mask what was an otherwise shaky night for the Bulls, who shot just 39-percent (33-for-84) from the field, committed 14 turnovers and had 10 shots blocked.
In order for Atlanta to hold serve, they are going to have to figure out a way to contain Noah and come out with energy on both ends of the floor. That means that they are going to have to crash the glass and bring that extra effort to grab the rebound, which should elevate their transition game.
The Hawks are also going to have to go back to that patient offensive team and figure out a way to go inside-out instead of outside-in. Chicago's done a decent job stopping Atlanta's touches in the paint, but Atlanta can't shy away from contact there if that is the only way they're going to get buckets.
If Atlanta can succeed, they will win this basketball game. However, if they revert to that losing form, the crowd, which will have a healthy Chicago contingent, will shift to the Bulls and home court advantage will go by the wayside. In more ways than one.
The No. 1 concern for the Atlanta Hawks in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Chicago Bulls: NBA MVP Derrick Rose. Right? Well, in Game 1 Jeff Teague held Rose without a free throw, and in Wednesday night's loss finished within four points while producing a far better assists-to-turnovers ratio (zero turnovers always makes the stat line look nice).
Chicago's front line was the real most valuable ... line in Game 2. Joakim Noah was matched by college teammate Al Horford on the glass, but destroyed Atlanta offensively -- 19 points and seven offensive boards to Horford's three-of-12 shooting. Of course, Noah had backup, with Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng both also finishing with double-digit rebounds. Josh Smith, by comparison, and also just in general, looked lost, turning the ball over four times and flinging a pair of three-pointers like he was Zangief Kid.
Too many times, the Hawks took one of their customary eff-it jumpers, and Horford was alone in a sea of white when the ball came back off the rim. Chicago finished with 14 offensive boards and 40 points in the paint.
For this series to be a success, Teague's going to need aggressive help on offense, while somebody else is going to need to show up in the paint. The Bulls have too many big bodies for Smith to spend his evening bickering with refs while the action occurs on the other side of the floor.
The rest of the series schedule:
If someone told you that the Atlanta Hawks would leave the Windy City with a split in the first two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Chicago Bulls, one would figure most Hawks fans would be happy. But with how bad the Bulls played in Game 2, Atlanta's performance in this one seems like an opportunity lost.
Derrick Rose picked up the MVP award before the game and lead all scorers with 25 points as the Bulls coasted to an ugly 86-73 win over the Hawks on Wednesday night at the United Center.
Of course, the Hawks were just plain worse in a sloppy game that lacked tempo and for most of the first three quarters lacked much of an inside game for Atlanta's basketball team. As a result, the series heads down to Atlanta knotted at 1-1.
Give the Bulls credit. They made the adjustment on Joe Johnson, who torched them for 34 points in Atlanta's 103-95 Game 1 upset. But instead of capitalizing inside on the double-team, the Hawks went into that complacent, lazy game that got them another tongue lashing from coach Larry Drew during a second quarter timeout.
Hawks fans know it all too well, it's either the "iso-Joe standaround" or the "iso-Joe get open and take a terrible shot," which allows for a rushed or out-of-ideal-position shot, and an easy Bulls rebound and transition bucket.
Drew reminded his team during a timeout caught on TNT that when they play like that they lose. And that's exactly what they did on Wednesday night.
Atlanta failed to go inside with any real authority until late in the third quarter, when they made the first of many late runs. They whittled a 14 point third quarter lead to within seven in the third, six in the fourth, but couldn't push any closer. It seemed like once Atlanta's basketball team made a run, not only did the Bulls respond, but the Hawks also reverted back to that chuck up a bad shot form that sunk them once again.
The lone Atlanta bright spot was the play of second-year point guard Jeff Teague. He had a Hawks-high 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting from the field in his second game starting in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich.
Joe Johnson had 16 points and Smith had 13 for Atlanta, but J-Smoove crashed the boards just six times for the road team. Atlanta never fares well when Smith is not incredibly active on the glass and Wednesday night was no different.
Lead by Noah, Horford's former teammate at the University of Florida, the Bulls were simply more active on the glass, holding a 14-10 edge on the offensive boards and a commanding 58-39 advantage overall. That helped mask 14 Chicago turnovers and 10 blocked shots by Atlanta.
The good news is that Josh Smith may have finally figured out that in order for the Atlanta Hawks to win this one, he's going to have to be active at the bucket. The bad news is that he's missing those shots, too.
Derrick Rose has 18 points and Joakim Noah added 14 to post the Chicago Bulls to a 65-58 lead over the Hawks through three quarters in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup at the United Center on Wednesday.
Fortunately, for the Bulls, the Hawks are even worse.
Atlanta is connecting on just 33-percent of their shots (14-for-43) and is having all sorts of trouble establishing a post game.
Although the Hawks showed some signs of life late in the third frame, posting an 8-2 run behind four inside points by Josh Smith, who finally went to the bucket with authority in the third.
Nevertheless, the Atlanta power forward is just 3-for-11 from the field in this one and has just nine points.
The Hawks need to continue pounding the paint in order to chip away at the Chicago lead. While it may not be an easy task, it's something that can be done on an off-shooting night for both teams.
Hawks coach Larry Drew ripped into his Atlanta Hawks team at the break, telling his club that they were taking the same poor shots that got them into trouble in many of their losses.The Hawks still haven't gotten the memo and they are down big at the break.
Atlanta's woes can simply be traced to this: they are taking terrible shots, not controlling the boards and losing the transition battle. Yes, some credit should be given to Chicago, which is keying in on Joe Johnson, but instead of taking the ball and going to the hoop with it off of a Johnson double-team, Hawks, such as Josh Smith are jacking up ill-advised jumpers.
That's what the losing Hawks team does and that's why the Hawks are doing exactly that in this one.
Joe Johnson has seven points and Al Horford added four for Atlanta. Every other Atlanta player has two points or less.
Chicago is getting it done despite connecting on just 41-percent (17-for-42) from the field because they are 11-for-11 from the free throw line and hold a 29-19 edge on the glass.
Atlanta's going to have to make adjustments and play smart basketball if they are to climb back into this one. This can be done, but it won't be easy against a Bulls team that seems to have made the right adjustments after their eight-point Game 1 setback.
Derrick Rose picked up his MVP trophy from NBA Commissioner David Stern prior to this one. He's looking every bit like one through the first 12 minutes in Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls' Eastern Conference matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.
Rose has 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field to post the Bulls to a 25-19 edge over the Hawks at the United Center on Wednesday.
Atlanta on the other hand did what they do worst: settled for ill-advised, poorly timed jump shots from players who need to be crashing the paint instead. The result was a 10-2 Bulls run to end the frame.
The Bulls made an adjustment on the Hawks, who had no problem draining the long-range jumper in Game 1. Atlanta's had difficulties with the long ball, shot just 31-percent (8-for-26) in the frame and did not nail a three.
How bad were things for the Hawks in the quarter? Josh Smith was 0-for-4. At least two of those shots were jumpers he should never take.
Chicago came out of the gate in this one strong. Atlanta needs to match their energy and take smart shots if they want to steal another one in the Windy City. Otherwise, it's going to be a long night for the road team in this one.
Osama bin Laden may be swimming with the fishes thanks to a bunch of hero Navy SEALs, but you need not look further than the NBA playoffs to realize that those minor inconveniences due to the War on Terror continue.
Thanks to the "enhanced potential for anti-American violence," the NBA issued a directive to the clubs remaining in the 2011 NBA Playoffs to step up security at all of the remaining games.
The Atlanta Hawks are taking this directive very seriously when the best-of-seven series continues here at Philips Arena on Friday and Sunday. All fans that head out to the arena to watch the Hawks take on the Chicago Bulls will be screened via wand metal detectors. Their bags will also be searched.
As a result of the heightened security, folks with tickets are asked to make their way into the arena early. Philips Arena will open up 90 minutes before tipoff, which means doors open at 5:30 p.m. for Game 3 on Friday and 6:30 p.m for Game 4 on Sunday.
Obviously, these heightened security procedures will also be in place for Game 6 here next Thursday, but we here at Atlanta SBNation hope that the Hawks win the series by then and we're talking about enhanced security procedures for the Eastern Conference Finals here instead.
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Hawks and the Bulls is set for an 8:00 p.m. EDT tip at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday. Atlanta upset Chicago 103-95 in the first game of the series to take a 1-0 lead.
The Atlanta Hawks are looking to stare down the league MVP and take a commanding 2-0 lead back to Atlanta.
Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and the Hawks hope to pull off another expert-shattering upset when they take on the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup on Wednesday at the United Center (8:00 p.m. EDT, TNT, 97.9 FM).
The Hawks stunned and shushed some of the critics and won a good chunk of change for those that believed in Vegas when they humbled the Bulls in a 103-95 Game 1 win. Atlanta, which went off as a nine-point underdog, jumped all over Chicago at the start, posting the first nine points. Chicago made a game of it late, before the Hawks pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Johnson had one heck of a night, posting 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field, one shy of his playoff-career high. The Atlanta shooting guard was particularly deadly from beyond the arc (5-for-5) and from 16-to-23 feet (5-for-8).
That, along with a strong 22 point performance by Crawford, helped mask poor shooting night from Josh Smith (3-for-11), who was taking and missing way too many jumpers.
Game 1 also had its share of surprises. Derrick Rose, who was named the league's MVP on Tuesday, missed his first seven shots in the first quarter, but finished close to his season average with 24 points. He also tweaked his left ankle in the game's final play and depending on the source may or may not have had an MRI and may or may not have a Grade 2 sprain.
In any event, Rose practiced on Tuesday and is expected to suit up for Game 2.
Atlanta also did a bit of a switcheroo in Game 1, posting Al Horford on Carlos Boozer and Smith on Horford's former Florida teammate Joakim Noah. That may have confused the Bulls early on as they struggled, shooting just 29-percent (6-for-21) in the first quarter.
The Hawks also got a bunch of help from reserve Jeff Teague, who posted 10 points in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich. He also did a decent enough job fronting and frustrating Rose -- at least early on.
While Atlanta played well in their Game 1 win, there was a sense that they could do better. Yes, the defense was getting the necessary stops, but the offense at times was stagnant at times, played off kilter at others and failed to generate a ton of touches at the rim.
According to Hoopdata.com, the Hawks had 21 field goal tries at the hoop and another 13 between 3-9 feet from the bucket, while they had 39 long range shots from beyond 16 feet. The Bulls on the other hand established the post, taking 45 shots from inside and 36 from long range.
If Atlanta wants to be successful, they're going to have to reverse those numbers as you can't expect Johnson and Crawford to post those same long-range numbers in Game 2.
At the end of the day, the Hawks still do have matchup advantages over the Bulls at every position but the point (Rose vs. Teague) and possibly small forward (Luol Deng vs. Marvin Williams). Atlanta could win this game if they stick to the game plan, frustrate Rose and use that same grit and determination to grit their way to victory.
However, Vegas expects a different result. The Hawks enter Game 2 as 8.5 to 9 point underdogs once again and will return a cool +400 to every $100 bet on the money line. (That's another way of saying that no one expects in the U.S. gambling mecca expects Atlanta to win Game 2).
The Hawks have smashed Vegas thus far in the 2011 playoffs. They are 6-1 against the spread and 5-2 straight up through their first seven playoff games. If Atlanta can continue that trend, they'll come back to Atlanta in a commanding position for Game 3 on Friday.
Hello, Derrick Rose's injured ankle. We've heard a lot of things about you lately. Your Derrick Rose said you're fine after your Game 1 injury, as did an X-ray machine. Reports even had you practicing without swelling on Tuesday.
Now here comes this other report by CSN Chicago's David Kaplan. He says you have a Grade 2 sprain, underwent a MRI and that you're really going to get in your Derrick Rose's way during Wednesday's Game 2. Mr. Kaplan is very insistent about all this, calling his sources "excellent."
It's hard to know what to make of all this, Derrick Rose's ankle. We hope you're all right, but also wish we knew whether you're OK or not. We'll find out Wednesday night, I suppose.
PS: Derrick Rose is probably hurt, almost certainly going to play as normal and definitely going to be a challenge for Atlanta.
As expected, Derrick Rose was able to get in a complete workout at Chicago Bulls practice Tuesday, according to a tweet by the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. His right ankle, which he injured in the final seconds of Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, doesn't have any swelling, perhaps due to the mysterious apparatus he alluded to Monday night.
Can Jeff Teague hold his own against the NBA MVP in Game 2 Wednesday night, as he did in Game 1? Or was Game 1 just a fluke? We'll soon find out!
As long as Rose isn't looking ahead to his Friday night MVP party at Atlanta's Primal, expect a full-hearted performance from the Chicago point guard. Would be pretty, pretty awesome for Rose to be partying in Atlanta with Bulls down 2-1, though.
The Atlanta Hawks may have shocked the established media yesterday with their 103-95 upset of the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 on Monday, but just like it was in Atlanta's first round series against the Orlando Magic, things haven't changed in Vegas all that much.
The lines are out for Game 2 of the Hawks-Bulls matchup and Atlanta's basketball team still is a big-time underdog in the contest, which will tip off on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on TNT and 97.9 FM.
Once again, Atlanta is nearly a double-digit underdog on the road. According to scoresandodds.com, the major Vegas and offshore sportsbooks have installed the Hawks as 8.5 or 9 point underdogs for Game 2.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise for anyone who has followed the Hawks' playoff journey this year. Atlanta's basketball team was a nine-point chalk in Game 1 of the Hawks-Bulls series and has been an underdog in each of their first seven playoff game.
But those who have bet on the Hawks on either the spread or the money line have managed to eke out a pretty penny.
Atlanta is 6-1 against the spread and 5-2 straight up in the playoffs thus far this season. The only game in which the Hawks didn't cover the spread was Game 5 between in the Orlando-Atlanta series, which the Magic won by 25 points.
It turns out that he was right.
Rose, who is expected to be named MVP on Tuesday, had an X-Ray on the sprained left ankle. The results were negative. No further tests are expected for Rose, who is expected to participate in practice on Tuesday.
Chicago's leading scorer turned the ankle in the final seconds of Atlanta's upset win. He stepped on the foot of Jamal Crawford as he tried to steal the ball -- a somewhat puzzling gesture in a game that was well out of hand for the Bulls.
Rose limped awkwardly off of the court with the assistance of the team's trainer and other Chicago players. His injury capped a frustrating night for the Bulls' best player. Although Rose finished with 24 points, one point off of his season average, he struggled in the first quarter, missing his first seven shots from the field and finished with no points.
Chicago and Atlanta renew their rivalry in Game 2 on Wednesday. The Bulls and Hawks tip off from the United Center at 8 p.m. Eastern. The game will be on TNT and 97.9 FM.
Johnson netted 34 points and Jamal Crawford added 22 as the Hawks pulled off a 103-95 upset of the No. 1 seeded Bulls in Game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Monday night at the United Center.
Jeff Teague had 10 points filling in for the injured Kirk Hinrich and Al Horford shook off early foul trouble to post nine points and grab 13 boards for Atlanta, which notched a win in the playoff's second round for the first time since the 1997.
"We're very confident," Johnson told TNT's David Aldridge after this one. "We know we can beat any team in this league once we focus in. Tonight we did that."
That they did. All it took was a near-career high playoff night from Johnson and some sub-par play from Derrick Rose to get there.
Johnson, who was lustily booed on his home court the last time the Hawks made it to the second round, looked all like the player that ownership rewarded with a max-contract in the offseason.
When Atlanta was struggling with its shot in the third quarter, the perennial All-Star nailed a couple of 3-pointers to keep the Hawks within striking distance. And then he helped the underdog Hawks pull off an upset that will resonate from Vegas to Rush Street to Bristol and every city in between.
"This is the post season not the regular season," Johnson said of the difference between this Hawks team and the one dropped a pair of double-digit decisions to the Bulls in the regular season. "I just think our swagger is a little bit different. We're just playing with confidence."
Atlanta somehow managed to escape with a 72-71 lead through three quarters despite connecting on just six field goals in a frame where the Hawks looked much like the "bad" Atlanta basketball team that jacks up ill-advised jumpers. However, to their credit, they did manage to tread water by defending on the other side of the floor.
That lead to good things in the next frame. Johnson ignited a decisive 15-4 Atlanta run with a 3-pointer, which he bookended with another trey with 7:13 left to post the Hawks to a 87-75 lead. You knew it was going to be Atlanta's night when guys like Zaza Pachulia and Teague contributed key buckets in that stretch.
Chicago cut the lead down to six on a few occasions down the stretch, but each time Atlanta had an answer.
The Hawks also managed to make life miserable for Rose, who ultimately finished with 24 points, but couldn't do much of anything early. The Chicago star and likely NBA MVP had no points in an 0-for-7 first quarter.
But Rose wasn't the only Bulls player who came out of the gate looking a little wet under the ears to big-time playoff basketball. Chicago misfired on its first nine shots from the field as Atlanta scored the game's first nine points, stunning the United Center crowd. They did not have a field goal until Luol Deng connected with 6:44 left in the first frame to make it an 11-4 game.
With Horford in foul trouble for most of the second quarter, Chicago whittled the lead down to 51-50 at the break and held as much as a six points in the third.
In the end, the Bulls just couldn't stop a charging Johnson. The Atlanta shooting guard finished 12-for-18 from the field and 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line. He also nailed all five of his free throw attempts.
Johnson and the Hawks once again defied Vegas, who installed them as nine-point underdogs. They defied the so-called "experts" who were calling for a Bulls sweep and they won a second round game for the first time in 15 tries.
Yes, folks, the Hawks, who stole Game 1 in their opening round series against the Orlando Magic before closing out the series in six games, are at it again.
And this one could even get worse for the Bulls, who could possibly be without Rose in Game 2. The Chicago star appeared to tweak an ankle late in the game, to add injury to what may be considered by some in the Windy City to be an insulting loss to Atlanta's basketball team. He says he's fine, but we'll wait and see if suffers any effects from the injury over time.
Deng netted 21 points and Carlos Boozer had 14 for Chicago, which committed 11 turnovers.
Derrick Rose pulled up limping at the end of the Atlanta Hawks Game 1 win against the Chicago Bulls, sending many a Bulls fan gasping. Rose says he's fine, though, telling the Chicago Sun-Times Joe Cowley that he will continue round-the-clock treatment and strap some sort of machine to his injured left ankle, no Iron Man.
Rose has struggled with that injury for a while now, so to see him re-aggravate it couldn't have been pleasant for Chicago fans. Though it might be fair of the Bulls to hold their point guard out of a game, since Atlanta is also doing so. No?
Don't expect the NBA MVP to miss any game time. He has until Wednesday night to recuperate. If nothing else, he'll have to take the floor to accept his 2011 MVP trophy, so he might as well suit up while he's there.
Derrick Rose quite lit'rally couldn't have re-injured his left ankle at a worse time, for the Chicago Bulls at least. The soon-to-be NBA MVP stepped on Jamal Crawford's foot as time ran out in the Atlanta Hawks Game 1 victory, pulling up lame and lingering at mid-court as Hawks players celebrated. Video, via @BlazersEdge:
Teammates gathered, the United Center crowd lingered in silence ... I've never quite seen anything like that. The best player in the league hurting himself pretty much right when a game ends?
No word yet on how serious the injury is. TNT reports David Aldridge is on the case. Rose has suffered from a left ankle sprain for a while now, needing to wear a walking boot and undergo a MRI as recently as a week ago. If Rose has to miss any game time, the complexion of this series changes dramatically.
As bad as the jump shooting Atlanta Hawks were in the third quarter, they still somehow lead the game.
The Hawks still managed to end the quarter with as many points as the Bulls in the frame despite connecting on just 6-of-22 field goals and jacking up a number of ill-advised jumpers. But even with a couple of terrible ill-advised jumpers by Josh Smith and flagrant-1 call call on the other end of the floor, Atlanta goes into the fourth quarter with the lead.
How you ask?
It's all about Johnson. Atlanta's highest played and much maligned player has come up huge on a night where there were a lot of offensive breakdowns. He is nailing crucial 3-pointers and converting on crucial three-point plays to give Atlanta a chance in this one.
The Bulls have also been a bit sloppy and careless with the ball, committing eight turnovers through three frames. And the Hawks have done it on defense, getting the stops when they need to.
If Johnson can continue to carry the Hawks, Atlanta may be able to steal one here. Stay tuned.
Luol Deng has a game-leading 17 points and Kurt Thomas has six, but the Hawks are still clinging to a 51-50 lead over the Bulls through two quarters.
Derrick Rose is having a terrible shooting night, posting just five points on 2-for-10 shooting for the field for Chicago, which shot 43-percent (18-for-42) in the first 24 minutes.
The Hawks lead by as many as 11 in this one before the Bulls rallied late in the frame, posting a 12-5 run to end the frame. While Atlanta has played well for a lot of this one, they are on edge at times and have had some difficulties at both defending the perimeter and defending the paint.
The result has been too many easy buckets for Chicago, which is back in the game.
Jeff Teague has done a good job fronting Rose, who is expected to be named the league's MVP. He also has six points. Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Jason Collins have five each for an Atlanta team that shot 56-percent (22-for-39) from the field.
Al Horford netted four points, but is in foul trouble. After sitting a bit after picking up a pair of fouls early, coach Larry Drew let him back into the game late in the second quarter. But he picked up foul No. 3 and was benched for the remainder of the frame.
Rose finished the quarter 0-for-7 from the field for the Bulls, who shot just 29-percent (6-for-21) from the field in the first quarter.
Teague set the tone by slashing into the lane for the opening layup, as Hawks came out red-hot in this one, scoring the first nine points of the game while the Bulls missed their first nine shots from the field. Teague stayed in front of Rose. Josh Smith covered Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer matched wits with Al Horford.
The result was a number of long-range jumpers and ill-advised shots that were more fitting of the Hawks rather than the No. 1 seed Bulls.
But Atlanta, which lead by as many as 10 in this one, started to take more long range shots as the Bulls regained their composure, cutting the lead to 18-13 with 3:21 left in the frame as the Hawks called time out. But Josh Smith followed with an alley-oop dunk from Jamal Crawford and the Hawks pushed back with a bucket by Damien Wilkins to reestablish a more comfortable lead.
You have to be happy with the flow of this game if you are a Hawks fan. Chicago looks like a team that's feeling its way around in the first second round playoff series for these group of guys. Atlanta is controlling the tempo and moving the ball well and dominating the game as a result.
Josh Smith, Al Horford and Damien Wilkins also four points for the Hawks, who shot 59-percent (13-for-22) in the first quarter.
It's time to get things started in the Windy City.
This won't be an easy series for Atlanta's basketball team, which will likely be without point guard Kirk Hinrich for the entire series. Hinrich strained his right hamstring in Atlanta's round one series-clinching Game 6 win over the Orlando Magic on Thursday.
Guarding Rose is going to be a challenge for Atlanta, which failed to contain the Chicago superstar in the three-game regular season set. The point guard averaged 25.3 points and nine assists in the matchup, which the Bulls took 2-1.
The Hawks were very, very lucky to eke out a win in the first game of the series. Atlanta rallied from a 20-plus point deficit in that one to pull off a monumental upset behind a career-high 31 points from Al Horford. But behind a vow from Rose, the No. 1 seed Bulls made short work of the Hawks in the next two games of the set, posting wins by 18 and 33 points.
Whether Chicago continues its success against the Hawks will begin and end with how well Atlanta's lineup contains Rose and the rest of the Bulls' supporting cast, which may be without Carlos Boozer to start the series. Boozer, who is suffering from a turf toe injury, did not practice the last three days. While many Bulls including Horford's former teammate Joakim Noah expect Boozer to play on Monday, no one can predict how effective he will be.
As Chicago doesn't really have a big man in the middle, look for a different look for Atlanta in the series. The Hawks will go back to their regular or "small" lineup for the series, where Horford will guard Noah at center, Josh Smith will play the four, Marvin Williams will play the three and Joe Johnson will line up with Teague at guard.
That means we'll be seeing less of Jason Collins in this series. But expect to see some Zaza Pachulia off the bench to bring some energy to the team in spurts. Also expect to see Damien Wilkins used in a similar role to Zaza and Collins in Atlanta's round one matchup against the Magic. Wilkins can play defense and may be brought in to pester and annoy Rose from time-to-time in the game.
While virtually all of the so-called experts are calling for the Bulls to handily win this series in five or six games, this is a winnable series for a Hawks team that is amongst the league's best when they have the heart and desire to dig down deep and play good basketball.
As always with this team, you will be able to tell quickly what Atlanta team is going to show up. The good team penetrates inside and creates opportunities from that penetration. The bad Atlanta team has guys like Smith taking ill-advised 20-foot jumpers.
If the good team shows up, Atlanta can eke out a win against a young Bulls team that hasn't gone this deep into the postseason yet.
The Atlanta Hawks aren't being given much of a chance in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Chicago Bulls. I mean they really really aren't being given a chance. Sure, we said that in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs, but this time we mean it. Look at the lockstep:
Bulls in four: Chicago Now's Shams Charania thinks Atlanta's lapses into one-on-one offensive attacks "play right into the Bulls' hands" -- no argument there. TSN's Tim Chisholm can't imagine how Atlanta is going to score on the NBA's best defense after shooting so poorly in round one. Count Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer and ESPN's John Hollinger (of course!) among the sweep camp.
Bulls in five: The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson gives Chicago the edge at virtually every series factor. The Washington Post's Michael Lee sees Jamal Crawford as the series' most important player, considering the back court damage done by Kirk Hinrich's injury. The Los Angeles Times' Mark Hesler picks the Bulls, but doesn't predict a number of series games -- sounds like about five to me. Sporting News' Sean Deveney sees this as yet another bad second round matchup for Atlanta. Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe sees a Hawks squad with far too many questions -- lit'rally!
Yahoo! Sports' Johnny Ludden, along with ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Michael Wilbon (of course!) and Chad Ford, shows up here as well.
Bulls in six: The Hawks will show their true colors after winning a series that mattered so much to them, says TSN's Jack Armstrong. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Greg Anthony and Marc J. Spears have Chicago in six, along with ESPN's J.A. Adande, Chris Broussard and Jalen Rose.
Bulls in seven: Hello, ESPN's Tim Legler, television's finest and most beloved professional basketball analyst.
Hawks ... at all: God bless you, SB Nation Atlanta's own Phil Foley, for picking the Hawks in six games.
I agree with Mr. Armstrong, though I'll be happy to see the Hawks take the series to six; based on the past few seasons, it's hard to imagine this Hawks collective not feeling like it's already won its Super Bowl by enjoying revenge against the Orlando Magic.
The Chicago Bulls aren't without an injury issue or two of their own, though they're not quite as depleted as the Atlanta Hawks are, who might be without Kirk Hinrich for the entire series. Carlos Boozer's turf toe injury caused the big power forward to miss his third straight practice on Sunday, though Chicago is confident he'll play in Monday's Game 1.
He may need to come off the bench, however; Kurt Thomas has been practicing with the starting five as of late. The Bulls have plenty of defensive options to throw at Al Horford and Josh Smith, with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson also in the mix.
Boozer hurt his right foot during the end of the Bulls-Pacers series. He missed one of the season series' Chicago jaunts, but played 33 minutes in the Atlanta comeback win keyed by perhaps the best game of Horford's career. The Bulls rolled in his other season series appearance.
Tucked in the back of his head was one of the Bulls' most embarrassing losses of the season -- a game where Chicago came to Atlanta and blew a 20-point lead behind a career-best night by Al Horford. Rose vowed that that would never happen again. His Bulls followed with an easy 114-81 drubbing of the Hawks the next time the two teams were on Atlanta's home floor.
That loss typified what a puzzling season it has been for the hometown Hawks. One night, the team will look like world-beaters, the next they'll look like the dregs of the league, dropping another game on their home court like they're the Sacramento Kings.
As a result, the Hawks have had problems establishing that respect level around the so-called experts that write and opine all that is the NBA.
Let's face it. Much like a character in a kid's bedtime story book, when the Hawks are good, they are very, very good and when they are bad, they are very, very bad. There's not much in between for Atlanta's basketball team.
However, as the Orlando Magic and their scribes found out, those who take the Hawks lightly do so at their peril. And much like with Orlando, outside of Chicago's superstar in Rose, the Hawks matchup somewhat well with the Bulls and could pull off an upset here.
But with Kirk Hinrich likely out for the entire series with a severe right hamstring injury, it's not going to be easy.
Expect to see a lot of much-touted-by-the-fans, but not-loved-by-the-coaches Jeff Teague at the point in this one. The second-year Hawk will have a pivotal assignment -- keeping up with Rose, who may notch the league's MVP award.
Also fronted against Rose will be Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. Also expect another player that we didn't see much of in Atlanta's series against the more physical Orlando Magic to get some playing time in this one.
As much as Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins were used to pester, annoy and disrupt Dwight Howard, Damien Wilkins will be called upon in spurts to do the same to Rose's game. The nephew of Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins does have the ability to shut down an opponent defensively in short spurts.
Should Hawks coach Larry Drew go back to his "small" lineup and start Marvin Williams at the three instead of Collins at center, the most intriguing matchup of the series will be that between former Florida Gator teammates Horford and Joakim Noah.
Whether he admits it or not, Horford has a tendency to elevate his game against his former teammate and singlehandedly willed Atlanta back in the first game of the regular season set between the two clubs, abusing Noah for most of the night in the comeback.
Atlanta should also have advantages in the "small" lineup with a healthy Josh Smith against a banged up Carlos Boozer, who is expected to play in Game 1 even though he's suffering from turf toe and at the shooting guard where Johnson faces Keith Bogans.
But those matchup advantages are moot if Rose does what he's capable of and seizes control of the game.
Not many people expect much from Atlanta in this series. The pundits will likely be selecting against them as the No. 1 seed Bulls have become the che trendy pick in the East. But this is still a relatively young Chicago team that is not very battle tested this late into the postseason.
Atlanta has been to the second round in each of the last three seasons. Yes, they haven't won a game in the last two Eastern Conference Semifinal appearances, but just getting there matters at this stage in the game.
Hawks don't have much reflectivity when penetrated by radar and this Hawks team relishes the role of flying under it as underdogs. Look for a competitive series, which the Hawks can steal if they win one of the first two games in the Windy City.
Prediction: This may come back to haunt me, but I am picking the Hawks. The very, very good Hawks team can beat the Bulls -- when they want to. And the determination to win seems to be there for this Atlanta team, which has the intangible edge in playoff-tested experience over Chicago.
Much like in the Orlando series, Atlanta will eke out a win in one of the first two games up in Chicago and hold onto home court at Philips Arena.
Hawks in Six.
Atlanta, we have a problem.
The MRI came back on Atlanta Hawks point guard Kirk Hinrich's right hamstring injury and the results were not very good. The diagnosis was a severe strain and his is listed as doubtful for the Atlanta's Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
That's going to make life difficult for Atlanta, which must now go to "Plan B" when guarding Bulls guard Derrick Rose.
Atlanta traded for Hinrich in part to pick up some of the defensive duties from Joe Johnson when one of those big-time guards come into town. The theory was that Johnson would have would be able to finish games down the stretch with a tad bit of extra energy.
Now, Johnson will likely be the one who is primarily responsible for guarding Rose, who is one of the most prolific scorers in the league.
Expect to see more playing time for Jamal Crawford and second-year point guard Jeff Teague, who played in just two games in the recently completed six-game series against the Orlando Magic, should see hims minutes increase significantly.
The good news is that Hinrich is not the only one who is ailing. The Bulls Carlos Boozer has turf toe. But he's expected to play in Game 1 on Monday.
Atlanta has played through adversity without Hinrich before and expect them to do it again when in the second-round series begins next week. But it's definitely not a way to being the series as the afterglow of the epic upset of the Magic begins to fade.
The Atlanta Hawks are used to it by now. They know that it's not only the so-called experts that are doubting the character of Atlanta's basketball team. The same skepticism comes from the public, too.
And after proving the critics wrong in their first-round upset against the Orlando Magic, Vegas still isn't convinced that this Hawks team is for real.
The Hawks have been installed as nine-point underdogs in their Game 1 matchup against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, according to vegasinsiders.com. However, that number shouldn't come as a surprise to many who know a thing or two about sports betting.
Orlando was a 3-1 favorite to win their first round matchup against the Hawks and was favored to win each of the six games played -- including the three played on Atlanta's home court. In fact, the opening line for Game 1 of the Orlando-Atlanta series was not much different than the line posted for Game 1 vs. Chicago.
Sportsbook.com has the Hawks as huge underdogs in their best-of-seven series against the Bulls. As of midday Friday, Chicago was roughly a 12-1 favorite, with a $1200 bet on the Bulls returning you a whopping $100. The Hawks were +700 on the money line.
Atlanta continues to get zero respect to do much of anything on the court.
The Hawks are an NBA-worst 35-1 dog to win the NBA title on Sportsbook.com, 50-1 on bodog.com and a 100-1 shot on Vegasinsiders.com. Their chances of even coming down with an Eastern Conference crown? 10-1 according to Sportsbook.com.
To a man, the Hawks really don't care what the critics, or the public thinks.
"That doesn't bother us," Hawks forward Marvin Williams said after Atlanta's series-clinching 84-81 win over Orlando in Game 6 on Thursday. "Nobody has to believe in ourselves but ourselves. At the end of the day, that's all that matters."
It's worth noting that the Hawks belief in themselves has turned into cold-hard-cash for those who believed, too. Atlanta was 5-1 against the spread and 4-2 straight in their first round matchup against the Magic, spreading joy on the faces of those who believed in Vegas.
With a little more than three minutes left in a hotly contested game, Hawks point guard slashed to the basket for a much-needed layup. But he came up limping after the play and had to be pulled from the game in crunch time.
The Hawks are calling the injury a strained right hamstring. He will have an MRI on his injured leg on Friday.
Conventional wisdom is that Atlanta's going to need to keep Rose in check if they want to win the series. And losing one of the primary defenders against one of the best pure scorers in the league definitely hurts the Hawks, who can ill afford to have Hinrich out for very long.
Joe Johnson already knows that he is going to have his hands full with Rose and is up for the challenge.
"Naw, not at all," Johnson responded when asked if he was worried about guarding Rose after Atlanta's win on Thursday. "If that's what I have to do, that's a challenge I have to take."
Even if Johnson and D-Rose duel for most of the series, he will not be alone. Yes, it will be nice to have Hinrich there so that Johnson doesn't have to expend that much energy guarding Rose, but the Hawks could also use Jamal Crawford or even Jeff Teague or Damien Wilkins to relieve Johnson in spurts.
Think of the scrappy Wilkins, who was used for less than eight minutes in the first round, as the second round's version of Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia -- a guy who can be brought in the game in spurts with the sole mission to pester, defend and annoy Rose to get him out of his game.
More will be known about Hinrich later on Friday. But there is definitely a "Plan B" if he can't go for the Hawks in the series.
With the end of one series comes the beginning of another. And for the Atlanta Hawks, it means that there are more tickets to sell.
Moments after their series-clinching Game 6 win over the the Orlando Magic, Atlanta's basketball team put tickets for their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinals round matchup against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on sale.
Chicago edged out the San Antonio Spurs to finish with the best record in the NBA and will get home court throughout the playoffs. As a result, the Hawks will start the series at the United Center in Chitown.
Atlanta will return to Philips Arena for Games 3, 4 and 6, if Game 6 is necessary, of course.
Game 3 is scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. tip next Friday (May 6), while Game 4 will start at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 8. Should Game 6 be necessary, it will happen on Thursday, May 12. The NBA hasn't released a starting time for that game, yet.
Tickets to all three contests are available by visiting www.hawks.com or by calling 1-866-715-1500. Get your tickets early folks. All three games against the Magic were sold out and with all those Illinois transplants down here, you know there's going to be a good Bulls showing at the Highlight Factory.
The Atlanta Hawks advanced to the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, getting a very satisfying slice of revenge against the Orlando Magic in a six-game series that concluded at Philips Arena. Up next, the No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls, who needed a surprising amount of effort to get past the Indiana Pacers in their own opening round.
The series TV schedule, start times:
Game 1: Mon., May 2 in Chicago, 8 p.m., TNT, 97.9 FM
Game 2: Wed., May 4 in Chicago, 8 p.m., TNT, 97.9 FM
Game 3: Fri., May 6 in Atlanta, 7 p.m., ESPN, 97.9 FM
Game 4: Sun., May 8 in Atlanta, 8 p.m., TNT, 97.9 FM
Game 5: Tue., May 10 in Chicago, Time TBD, TNT, 97.9 FM
Game 6: Thu., May 12 in Atlanta, Time TBD, ESPN, 97.9 FM
Game 7: Sun., May 15 in Chicago, Time TBD, TNT, 97.9 FM
Until last night, Atlanta's season series with Chicago provided the home team's most stirring win of the year, as the Hawks came back from a giant deficit on the strength of Al Horford in a March meeting. Atlanta dropped both of its other contests against the Bulls, and neither was very close.
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