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Atlanta Hawks Face Numerous Obstacles Against Chicago Bulls

The Atlanta Hawks upset the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, advancing to play the Chicago Bulls, who finished with the league's best record, in the second. Chicago, with presumptive MVP winner Derrick Rose and the stiffest defense in the league, will present a much more difficult challenge to the Hawks than Orlando did.

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The Bulls won the season series against the Hawks, 2-1, by an average final score of 96-80. Atlanta's lone victory came on March 2, when Chicago squandered a 17-point lead at Philips Arena. Al Horford led the Hawks with 31 points an 16 rebounds.

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And Horford represents the Hawks' best chance at pulling off the huge upset. If the Bulls have a defensive weakness, it's at power forward, where Carlos Boozer, dedicated as though he may be, simply cannot cover the pick-and-roll. Involving Horford in pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action will get Boozer out of position more often than not. As the Indiana Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough showed in the first round, Boozer's deficiency here results in plenty of open jumper opportunities for opposing big men.

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That's where the good news ends for Atlanta, unfortunately. NBA.com's StatsCube feature shows the extent to which Chicago shut down Atlanta, limiting it to 41.9 percent shooting on two-pointers. And though the Hawks shot well from three-point range, the Bulls limited them to just 32 triple-tries in three games.

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At the other end, Rose got whatever he wanted against the Hawks' defense, helping the Bulls to shoot an incredible 68 percent inside the restricted area on almost 25 attempts per game. Atlanta will have to compete harder defensively and hope for some bad bounces at the rim.

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As if all that weren't enough, the Bulls snared 59.4 percent of all available rebounds in the season series. The Hawks can win shooting poorly on twos, or they can win giving up a high percentage of shots in the immediate basket area, or they can win when they're badly outrebounded, but they can't win doing all three things simultaneously.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.