The Chicago Bulls dodged a bullet when the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Orlando Magic in six games, or did they? At this point, the Hawks are playing great playoff basketball and are starting to get hot at the right time.
Atlanta's lack of fan support during the season immediately resurges in the playoffs to give them a great advantage at home. Yes, I think they overpaid for Joe Johnson, but he is playing well right now and controlling the flow of the game. He has not taken many bad shots yet and will be a key factor in this series.
Hawks in seven, and this is how they can do it.
Rose is making a push for MVP and will probably get it. If he does, Rose will be the most inefficient MVP in the history of the NBA.
The Hawks best game plan is to let him shoot and try to shut down everyone else, just like they did with Dwight Howard. Rose shows similarities to Allen Iverson, shooting only 37 percent and averaging only 7.8 made shots in 21 attempts per game in the playoffs.
The Hawks must rebound the ball. I know, this is taught in middle school basketball, but some teams still do not BOX OUT! Noah and Boozer were both in the top 15 in RPG this season, and that is a key to the Bulls' game plan—second-chance points.
The less second chances the Bulls can get, the better chance Atlanta has to win this series.
For some reason, Josh Smith thinks he can hit the 15-footer. His game is inside and he should stick to layups and dunks.
Smith likes to take the challenge when defenders play a few feet off him and throws up bricks. If Smith starts to shoot in this series, it could mean the demise of the Hawks' playoff run.
Joe Johnson needs to take over this series for the Hawks because clearly they have no other viable scoring options. Johnson shot .443 from the field during the regular season, averaging just over 18 points per game.
Joe has not shown what he can really do in the playoffs yet, shooting under 40 percent but still controlling things on the floor for the Hawks.
Horford is going to be a huge factor in this series between his rebounding and his scoring ability. He can hit the mid-range jumper and plays a lot tougher underneath the basket than Joakim Noah.
For Atlanta to be effective, Horford needs to average around 15 points per game and really set the tone on defense for the Hawks.
Atlanta got outscored on average in the first series by the Magic, but only because of the 30-point whooping that Orlando put on the Hawks in Game 5. The Hawks have to help out underneath the basket and allow the Bulls to take the outside shots. Atlanta cannot lose the battle inside or they will lose the series in four.
But despite the fact Atlanta had trouble scoring against the Magic, they still only gave up just over 88 points per game. If they can hold the Bulls to under 90 points per game, the Hawks will win this series in seven.
Atlanta does not have a deep bench, but the few guys they bring in to the game need to be a factor. Jamal Crawford was huge for the Hawks in the first series averaging 20.5 PPG, shooting .435 from the field and an astonishing .459 from beyond the arc.
Zaza Pachulia is a post player who comes off the bench for Hawks. He is not a very productive player, but he brings a spark and certain toughness to the game that most bench players can't bring. Marvin Williams shot .542 from the field, but only averaged 6 PPG. With that shooting percentage maybe Williams needs to take a few more shots.
A major part to success in the playoffs is having the fan support behind you. The Hawks have an extra advantage in this department because they do not have much fan support during the regular season. When they see those fans, it brings them a certain feeling of accomplishment and pushes them to play better.
I believe the Hawks can steal one in Chicago, but if they do not, they need to take both at home and they can't do that without their fans.
These eight keys will lift the Atlanta Hawks past the Chicago Bulls and to the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games.