This series has the word ‘zoo’ written all over it. Or maybe it has the words ‘animal’ and ‘cracker’ written all over it.
1. Chicago Bulls vs. 5. Atlanta Hawks
It was not an easy task knocking off the Indiana Pacers, but the Chicago Bulls won the series and have advanced. Leading the team to success, Derrick Rose showed why he is going to be the NBA’s youngest MVP. It was more than Rose, however, that helped the Bulls overcome a scrappy and determined opponent. Their frontcourt dominated the glass as the team averaged 46.4 rebounds per contest. Chicago has been a dominant rebounding team all season denying their opponents second chance opportunities on the offensive end of the floor.
The Atlanta Hawks, during the regular season, were a mediocre rebounding club. This changed in the first round when the team played the Orlando Magic. Atlanta out-rebounded Orlando by an average of 4.5 rebounds per game thereby increasing their rebounding average from 39.2 to 45.3. Apparently, Dwight Howard is not as “handsy” as a certain talking ball would have us believe. The Magic were not good and Atlanta deserved to win. Now, they face a much stiffer task in the Bulls, who dominated them during the regular season.
In their three games against the Bulls during the season, the Hawks averaged only 80 points, 14.8 fewer than their season average, took 6.7 fewer three-point shots, and collected only 40.6 percent of the available rebounds. Needless to say, Chicago clipped the Hawks’ wings.
Derrick Rose vs. Jeff Teague
With Kirk Hinrich likely missing the entire series, Atlanta finds themselves short-handed at the point guard position. Head Coach Larry Drew has penned Jeff Teague as the team’s starting point guard. Thereby the task of “defending” Rose has fallen to him. The two players were only on the court at the same time for 13 minutes during the regular season but the numbers are not all bad for Teague. While Teague was on the floor, Rose shot just 14 percent on field goals, missing all of his shots inside the arc. The sample size is extremely limited but are slightly promising.
As the Pacers did before them, the Hawks will use a platoon defense on Rose. Jamal Crawford will be forced to guard him at times and it would not be surprising if Joe Johnson or even a small forward, such as Marvin Williams, guarded Rose at times during the series. However, the bulk of the duties will fall on Teague. If Atlanta wants to reverse their regular season fortunes against Chicago, Teague must stay out of foul trouble. Hopefully, he took notes on how Paul George defended Rose in the first round. If he can duplicate that at times the Hawks will be in a much stronger place defensively.
Carlos Boozer vs. Al Horford
Boozer has an issue with turf toe but is going to play through the pain. It seems that he is always injured. In the first round Boozer was a complete non factor. He shot 35.8 percent and averaged just 10 points. He also turned the ball over 18,8 percent of the time that he had it and committed 19 fouls in the five game series. Against the Hawks, Boozer will be even less of a factor offensively as he will be matched up against Al Horford.
Horford dominated Boozer in their meetings during the season. While Horford was on the floor, Boozer averaged 10.9 points on 42 percent shooting and 6.4 rebounds. Conversely, Horford tallied 22.5 points and connected on 75 percent on his field goal attempts. The only striking blemish is the -16.1 effeciency rating that Horford has. However, that has more to do with the over all poor performance of his team against the Bulls.
Both the Bulls and Hawks use a ton of Isolation plays. In fact, watching this series is going to make everyone mad and yell at their televisions or internet streams for someone to pass the ball. Twitter will surely be entertaining when Joe Johnson puts himself in late game Isolation situations against the top rated defensive team in the league. Oh, the fun that we will have with those contested jump shots! Rose, too, however, works almost exclusively in Isolation sets. He pulls his defender out on an island, makes a move by him, and bull-rushes the rim. It is simple and more effective than it sounds.
Since the Bulls rely heavily on their rebounding, Joakim Noah will have to be as frustrating and annoying as he was against the Pacers. Atlanta’s up tick in rebounding should concern the Bulls…to an extent. Where Noah will be valuable is on second chance opportunities and tip ins.
Chicago is better than Atlanta. Plain and simple. However, the Hawks just upset a Magic team that features, as some believe, the league’s most dominant big man. With Hinrich out, the Hawks are down a capable scorer who can play both sides of the ball. Because everything the Hawks have done offensively against the Bulls this season can be described as anemic at best, this is a point of concern. The Hawks find themselves flying too close to the sun and in their fall back to Earth they will not be able to keep up with the running of the Bulls. Bulls defeat Hawks 4-1.