Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday Night to open up their second round series in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Bulls are 9-points favorites over the Hawks with an over/under total set at 179.
The Atlanta Hawks got their revenge on the Orlando Magic for an embarrassing sweep in last year’s playoffs, but in the process they lost point guard Kirk Hinrich for an undisclosed period of time. The loss of Hinrich can’t be underestimated, as point guard is simply the worst spot on the roster for any kind of deficiency when playing against MVP Derrick Rose. Hinrich’s injury likely means a lineup adjustment that will see Jamal Crawford playing increased minutes and Jeff Teague possibly playing reserve. While Crawford had an impressive series filled with clutch shooting and crafty maneuvers, he could experience a drop-off in production in a new role, as his arsenal is best suited for a jolt off the bench. The Hawks have had their time to prepare and will undoubtedly be ready with new looks as Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford will all be called upon to contribute in their usual fashions on offense. The Hawks are a long, athletic team that created havoc for the Magic on both ends of the floor and will look to replicate that form as they take to the road against a team who defeated them twice during the regular season, and in beatdown fashion.
The Chicago Bulls struggled at first with the pesky Indiana Pacers, but by game five Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau had all he needed on the scouting report to gameplan for a crushing victory to end the series in game five. The Pacers were mildly successful in defending Rose from the floor, but couldn’t do much to stop his penetration and uncanny ability to get to the foul line. After the first game of the series, the Bulls defense keyed in and managed to hold the Pacers to 90 or less points in the following 4 games. The Hawks will likely attempt to force Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer into foul trouble in the early going as it’s probably the strategy most likely to wear down the stout Chicago defense. The Bulls are an outstanding team at home having gone 36-5 at the United Center on the year.
The Bulls lead the season series 2-1 with the Hawks lone win being a come-from-massively-behind victory in Atlanta on March 2. The two Bulls wins came by 18 and 33 points also in the month or March. The Hawks only chance to emerge victorious is to slow the game down and play tight defense as they did with Orlando and I think Coach Larry Drew will employ that strategy accordingly. Chicago has utilized a defense first approach all year long and should be even more successful in tonight’s game with the Hawks using various new looks to run the offense. Although the under is listed on the low end, it should be the proper stance to take. Take the under 179.