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).
He would've rivaled Rose's assists total, too, if Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson could've combined to go better than nine-of-25.
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: