Chicago Bulls vs Atlanta Hawks – Playoff preview
By Joe Witherow
This year has some of the greatest matchups in this year’s conference finals. I mean on the Eastern side you have the Bulls vs the Hawks. You have a power point guard having a MVP season, and on the other side you have the most dominant big man in the league in Dwight Howard. The other matchup you have the Big Three in Miami (James, Wade, Bosh) vs the Big Three in Boston (Allen, Garnett, Pierce). In the Western conference you have the Memphis Grizzlies vs the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the other matchup is the Dallas Mavericks vs the Los Angeles Lakers. I will preview each matchup in a separate article in the upcoming days with what to watch for and the keys for each team to win.
Chicago needs to work to suffocate Josh Smith and Al Horford to win this series. That means giving them different looks and schemes and a constant hand in their face. Derrick Rose is going to see traps and fronts to have him get rid of the ball. The key is not the first pass from Rose it is the second and third. The Bulls get the ball to Luol Deng in the middle of the court he can hit the midrange jumper or pass it to an open three point shooter. Driving and kicking will be very important for the Bulls. The second key for Chicago is Joakim Noah being himself and playing with a high energy like he did in game five. Noah covers space and can collapse inside scoring for Atlanta.
Atlanta needs to run their sets and limit their turnovers to win this series. Chicago makes teams pay for turnovers, and Atlanta needs to play within their limitations. Jamal Crawford needs to be consistent in shooting and they need to win the battle of the boards. The great trait that the Hawks has is defensive stoppers in Kirk Hinrich on the perimeter and Josh Smith on the inside. Each team plays above average defense so expect lower scoring games in this series. Atlanta needs to utilize their bench, and their bench needs to outplay Chicago’s second unit. That means big games from Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia on a nightly basis not just Jamal Crawford. Expect to see the Bulls use someone with long arms and fast lateral movement on him such as Luol Deng or Keith Bogans.
This series will come down to who wants it more, and who can execute on offense. The Bulls have Tom Thibodeau , who is known for coaching the Boston Celtics championship teams on defense. He has got Chicago believing in a defense first mentality, and has gained the players respect for his system. Larry Drew, the coach for Atlanta is not a household name and is yet to face a big game situation. Atlanta has struggled to score at times and the suffocating defense of Chicago is going to expose this. Chicago will win this series in six games, and will shut down Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson in the pivotal game six.