Chicago won series 2-1
Game 1: Atlanta won 83-80 (Al Horford: 31 points, 16 rebounds)
Game 2: Chicago won 94-76 (Derrick Rose: 34 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists)
Game 3: Chicago won 114-81 (Derrick Rose: 30 points; Luol Deng: +39 plus/minus)
Kirk Hinrich: hamstring strain (doubtful for entire series)
After four games in which many were questioning when, if at all, the Bulls would show up, Chicago finally answered the call in the close-out game five. Now Chicago faces off against the Hawks, who upset (if you can call it that) the Magic in six games.
The Bulls faced Atlanta three times in the month of March. Chicago blew a 19-point lead in their first match-up, but then came back angry and won the next two by big margins (18 and 33). Chicago has bounced back from losses well all season. It’s something they did against Atlanta, feeling they were embarrassed, and it was something they did against the Pacers in the first round.
After losing game four, the Bulls finally looked like the 62-win team of the regular season, holding Indiana to 89 points on 39.2 percent shooting, while having an offensive explosion of their own, scoring 116 points on 48.2 percent shooting.
As the new series begins, let’s look back at how Chicago and Atlanta matched up in their three regular season games.
From mid-range (16-23 feet) this season, the Hawks shot 43.3 percent. Against the Bulls this season, Atlanta shot 42 percent. Not a significant drop, and it gets worse really. Atlanta shot 46.9 percent from three point range against the Bulls in the three regular season games. For the season, they shot 35.2 percent. Chicago can’t allow the Hawks to shoot that well this series and still expect to win.
Even with their great shooting from three, the Hawks still only averaged 80 points per game against the Bulls. That was 14.8 points lower than their season average. A large part of why the Bulls held the Hawks to 80 points per game was Chicago’s defense in the paint. Atlanta shot just 25 percent from inside the paint (excluding the restricted area). That is 19 percent worse than they averaged all year.
Another reason Chicago dominated Atlanta was the rebounding battle. Chicago out-rebounded Atlanta 44.3 to 30.3. This was well below Atlanta’s season rebounding mark of 39.2. The Bulls also won 13.3 to 7.3 on the offensive glass. Chicago grabbed 59.4 percent of available rebounds against Atlanta, up from their 53.5 percent season average.
Chicago’s offensive and defensive ratings both improved against Atlanta. They posted a 92.44 defensive rating (their season average was 97.37) and a 110.28 offensive rating (season average was 105.51). Atlanta’s regular season offensive rating dropped more than ten points when they faced Chicago, falling from 103.24 to 92.44
Most important in this series will be Chicago getting to the rim. Chicago shot 68 percent from inside the restricted area in the three games against Atlanta. And the key to getting to the rim is Derrick Rose.
Rose may catch a break if Hinrich misses the whole series. Hinrich is a solid defender, who makes whoever he is guarding work for everything.
Rose actually show a better percentage against the Hawks when Hinrich was on the floor, though. Rose shot 42 percent with Hinrich on the floor, while he shot only 33 percent when Captain Kirk was on the bench. Most of those makes came in the restricted area though, where Rose went 21-31 (68 percent). From the paint, Rose shot 18 percent (2-11) and he shot just 25-percent (4-16) from midrange.
Rose did average more assists (12) when Hinrich was on the bench than compared to when he was guarding Rose (7.3). Rose assisted on 63 percent of the Bulls baskets when Hinrich was sitting out. Hinrich will miss tonight’s game, according to the Chicago Bulls website. Atlanta coach Larry Drew has been quiet on whether he will start Jeff Teague or Jamal Crawford (with Joe Johnson possibly guarding Rose when Crawford is in). But neither will have as much success as Rose’s ex-teammate Hinrich would have had.
The Hawks have lost 15 straight games in the conference semifinals. Their last win came in game two against Chicago in 1997. Atlanta was swept by the Knicks in 1998, the Cavaliers in 2009 and the Magic in 2010.
Hoopinion’s Bret LaGree on Atlanta’s conundrum in trying to stop Derrick Rose: “Against the Hawks this season, Rose shot a lower percentage from the field, got to the line less often, and greatly increased his reliance on the three-point shot. At 30 years of age, Kirk Hinrich couldn’t stay up on Derrick Rose and stay in front of him but he could use his combination of his residual athleticism, his size, his defensive skill, and his experience to do the latter more often than not. Jamal Crawford can do none of those things. Jeff Teague can attempt to counter Rose with his athleticism but suffers from an extreme experience disadvantage. Joe Johnson has the size to play off Rose with the goal of staying in front of him but Johnson’s lack of athleticism and defensive skill may limit his ability to challenge Rose’s shots when they come.”
About the Author:
Braedan Ritter was born and raised in Pennsylvania but was swayed by gifts from his aunt to follow the Chicago sports teams. It didn’t hurt that the Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan playing for them, and the Sixers had…Derrick Coleman. Braedan has stuck with Chicago through thick and thin, and really thin (see: Chicago Cubs). And speaking of Coleman, Braedan is currently a student at Syracuse University.