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The 2011 Eastern Conference is really expected to be just a three horse race. However, that being said, the Atlanta Hawks are hoping to spoil in party on the NBA Finals odds over the course of the next two weeks, as they take on the top seed in the conference, the Chicago Bulls.
How the Hawks Can Win This Series
Atlanta really did everything in its power to make sure that it beat the Orlando Magic and avenged last year’s loss in the first round of the postseason by a whopping 111 points in four games. Unfortunately for the Hawks, that series went six games and looked like it took a boatload out of them. It’s going to take an even bigger effort with even fewer mistakes and even more luck to be able to take care of the Bulls, and it’s a real question whether any of that is even remotely possible.
Atlanta really shot the rock well over the course of that series against the Magic, at least relatively speaking to what Orlando was capable of. The five main players in the rotation all scored at least 10 points per game for the Hawks, led by the 20.5 points per game of Jamal Crawford off of the bench. Joe Johnson knocked down 18.0 points per game, while Josh Smith and Al Horford combined for 26.3 points and 18.4 rebounds per game between them.
The big concern right now is the health of Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich is really the team’s only point guard, and his hamstring injury suffered in Game 6 against Orlando really couldn’t have been more ill timed for the Hawks. If he can’t go (and he’s not expected to in Game 1), there is going to be a lot of pressure on a lot of different men to handle the basketball, and that might even including seeing more of Crawford or Johnson running the point position, something that really can’t be sitting well with Head Coach Larry Drew coming into this series.
How the Bulls Can Win This Series
The Bulls are the bigger, badder team in this series, and they certainly have all of the intangibles that you are looking for in a team to put away an iffy squad like the Hawks. Chicago didn’t really play at its best at any point in this first round series against the Indiana Pacers, but getting the job done in five games was certainly good enough for the fans in the Windy City.
The question mark again is health, but in this case, though the star is bigger, the effect on the team might not be as bad. It’s not like Chicago didn’t have to play half of the season without Carlos Boozer in the lineup anyway, so the team knows what it is like to be without one of its stars. Boozer is nursing a turf toe, and he really didn’t play all that well in the opening round series against the Pacers anyway. Like we said, there are plenty of other bigs like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and the likes that can pick up the slack offensive and on the glass, and the truth of the matter is that Atlanta really doesn’t have the bigs to worry us all that much even in Boozer does miss any time with this injury.
Oh, and have we forgotten to mention the league’s soon to be MVP, Derrick Rose? Rose really took over the entire series against the Pacers at times, single handedly winning Games 1 and 2. He averaged 27.6 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 boards, 2.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game in the first round, clearly making him the MVP of that series as well. Again, especially if Hinrich doesn’t play, Rose has an absolutely tremendous advantage at the point guard spot in this series.
The Last Word – Atlanta is just out of gas in this one. If the Hawks even win a game in this series, it should be considered a triumph. We know that it won the first meeting of these two teams this year, but when push came to shove, the Bulls posted a brutal blow out in the last two meetings. Expect to see a very, very lopsided series in the end. NBA Playoffs Picks: Bulls in 4