For this preview, I gathered stats from the following sites:
Atlanta on offense:
Allow me to present some meaningful offensive numbers:
30th in FGA at rim (20.0)
29th in Free Throw Attempts (1,728)
29th in Offensive Rebound Percentage (.209)
28th in Points in Paint (36.5)
20th Offensive Rating (106.1)
18th in Three-point Percentage (35.2)
16th in Three-point Attempts (17.4)
16th in Fast Break Points (13.9)
2nd in FGA from 16-23 feet (23.6)
The Hawks are a jump shooting team. It’s what they do. According to 82games.com, 73 percent of their field goal attempts are jump shots. And they’re second overall in attempts from 16-23 feet. The contested long-range jumper…also known as the worst shot in basketball.
What’s more, the Hawks are (by the numbers) one of the league’s worst teams at earning free throws, grabbing offensive rebounds and scoring in the paint. And they are merely average in scoring fast break points.
The point is: Atlanta does not generate easy points. They consistently rely on streaky outside shooters. This is not the formula for a successful offense. Especially not against a great defense.
In possibly related news, the Bulls rank 4th in the league at defending the 16-23 foot zone, holding opponents to 37.1 percent shooting from that area.
Atlanta on defense:
The Hawks are better on defense than offense, ranking 13th in Defensive Rating (107.0), and they’ve kicked it up a notch and rank 6th among the 16 playoff teams (102.4). I’m not sure how much of that was Atlanta’s D and how much was a critically flawed Orlando roster. I’m guessing it’s a little of Column A and a little of Column B.
During the regular season, the Bulls ranked sixth in shot attempts at the rim (26.2) and 10th in shot attempts from that dreaded 16-23 foot zone (21.5). That’s where the bulk of their offense comes from. The Hawks ranked 16th in opponents field goal percentage at the rim (63.8) and 25th from 16-23 feet (41.5). So, at the very least, Atlanta isn’t generally strong where Chicago likes to shoot from.
Still, the Bulls have some of the same concerns the Hawks do. They ranked only 14th in points in the paint (41.4) and 19th in fast break points (13.4). In other words, they aren’t getting lots of easy baskets.
On the upside, they gobble up offensive rebounds, and lead the playoffs in Offensive Rebound Percentage at .368. The Bulls aren’t a great shooting team — they’re 12th among the 16 playoff teams at 41.5 percent this postseason — but they give themselves plenty of second opportunities. Not that the Bulls should count on that. After all, the Hawks ranked 10th in Defensive Rebound Percentage (.746) during the season.
For Chicago, a key will be turnovers, as in a lack of them. I submit the following numbers from round one versus the Pacers. They aren’t pretty.
Turnovers/Points off Turnovers
Game 1: 15/24
Game 2: 22/26
Game 3: 16/18
Game 4: 14/21
In the first four games of the series, the Bulls surrendered 86 points off turnovers. That, in addition to their overall physical play, kept the Pacers in that series.
The Hawks may not be a great running team based on their average fast break points, but they are athletic and more potentially dangerous in the open court than Indy. If the Bulls get careless with the basketball, Atlanta will make them pay.
Let’s face it: The Bulls have Derrick Rose. He’s the best player in this series and that matters. He didn’t shoot well against the Pacers and he’s recovering from a sprained ankle. Regardless of his mini-shooting slump in the first round, who on the Hawks can stop him? Especially since Kirk Hinrich may miss the entire series due to a hamstring injury he suffered against the Magic in the first round. Captain Kirk is Atlanta’s only true point guard and a stabilizing force on offense and defense. Atlanta’s loss is Chicago’s gain…particularly since the Hawks really needed Hinrich to D up Rose.
Additionally, the Hawks have a thin bench, and it’s even thinner now with Hinrichout. In their final game against the Magic in round one, Atlanta’s reserves were Jamal Crawford (31:02), Zaza Pachulia (23:52), Marvin Williams (21:52) and Hilton Armstrong (2:15). Chicago’s Bench Mob didn’t have a great series against the Pacers, but I have a feeling they’re going to bounce back strong against the Hawks’ sorry group of pine riders.
The woes of Carlos Boozer:
Can we clear something up?
The rumors that say Boozer is a terrible playoff performer are greatly exaggerated. I’m serious. Check out his career playoff averages: 19.2 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 49 percent shooting and a PER of 18.6.
If Boozer had matched or even come close to his career averages against the Pacers, nobody would be giving him the stink eye. As it is, people are hitting the panic button.
Which, unfortunately, might be necessary.
There’s no good way to put this: Boozer has been slumping for a while. In the 36 games he played before the All-Star break, Carlos averaged 19.3 ppg on 54 percent shooting. In the 23 games after the All-Star break, Boozer’s averaged dropped to 14.8 ppg on 45 percent shooting.
Then, in the first round, his numbers plummeted to 10.0 ppg on 35 percent shooting. And even though his rebounding has remained strong — he ranks 8th in rebounds per game, 6th in Rebound Percentage and 4th inDefensive Rebound Percentage — his PER has sunk to a dismal 8.7. According to John Hollinger’s reference guide, that puts Carlos somewhere between “Rental” and “D-League.”
Not good. And there’s more bad news.
Boozer was at his worst against the Hawks this season. In two games, Boozer averaged 8.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg while shooting only 42 percent.
I’m not sure what’s up with Boozer. We know he sprained his ankle late in the season and he developed turf toe during the Pacers series. He doesn’t seem to have the lift he had before the All-Star break. It’s hard to say how much of Boozer’s problems are physical and how much are mental. After all, Carlos was very obviously frustrated in round one, and his attitude helped take him out of a couple games (at least).
The Bulls need Boozer to provide a secondary scoring threat. However, based on his general downward trend and terrible performances against the Hawks in the regular season, I don’t see Boozer pulling out of his slump in this series.
I hope I’m wrong about that.
Anyway, Bulls fans shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about Boozer matching up with Al Horford. I’m about 99.9 percent certain that Tom Thibodeau will have Joakim Noah cover Horford and put Boozer on centers Jason Collins and/or Pachulia.
Despite Boozer’s struggles, the Bulls have a much stronger team on paper than the Hawks, especially with Hinrich sitting out most of all of the series. That said, Atlanta is an athletic group of streaky shooters, andthey are pumped up from their first round series win over the Magic. Meanwhile, other than the Game 5 blowout, Chicago looked bad and played poorly against the Pacers.
So it’s hard to say what’s going to happen in this series. The Hawks tend to be a 50/50 team, sometimes scary, sometimes scary to their fans. And we don’t know which Bulls team is going to show up, the one that won 62 regular season games or the one that struggled to oust the worst club to make the 2011 playoffs.
That said, I truly believe Game 5 was a turning point for the Bulls. As long as they play their usual defense and make smart decisions on offense, they should win this series in five games. But because I’m feeling a little wary after their first round performance, I’m going to say they win it in six.