The Atlanta Hawks gave away home court advantage in Game 3 on Friday night. If they can't figure out a way to contain Derrick Rose, they're going to essentially give away the series in Game 4.
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.