Chicago Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks: This One Should Be Easy

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIMay 1, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 26: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls moves up the court against the Indiana Pacers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 26, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 116-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks' surprise upset of the Orlando Magic was just what the doctor ordered for the Chicago Bulls.

Despite Orlando being a flawed team, just the thought of Derrick Rose driving the lane and Dwight Howard swatting him like a fly kept me from sleeping at night.

Picturing Rose whimpering on the court and getting knocked out of the series, or missing a game or two because of a hard foul by Howard gave me nightmares. There was a history there, with Howard knocking Rose out of the air twice last year and causing him to miss a few games.

While Atlanta is an athletically-gifted team, it lacks the cohesion and a difference-maker to have much of a chance of making the Bulls break a sweat in this series.

They also lack a player like Howard that can end the Bulls' playoff hopes with a dirty play.

The Hawks have reached their zenith—the second round—and now it's time for their off-season to begin. The last two years, they were swept once they reached this level.

Is there any reason to believe things should change now?

They might be able to steal one, but I don't see every game going down to the wire like the Indiana series did for the Bulls—until the final game, when they finally blew the Pacers out.

This should be a confidence builder for Chicago, until it faces its real test in the Eastern Conference Finals against either Miami or Boston.

Kirk Hinrich, the one player who could have at least made Rose work for his baskets, is likely out for the series. While he's not a great player, he plays tough defense and—having played with him for a couple of years—knows Rose's game.

Without him, seldom-used Jeff Teague is faced with the in-enviable task of trying to slow-down Rose, because nobody stops him.

While the Pacers had a lot of big bodies inside to thwart Rose's drives to the hoop, Atlanta is lacking in that area. They also don't have a player that likes to give the hard foul as much as Indiana's Jeff Foster does.

Zaza Pachulia might try to take that role, but the rest of the team doesn't really play that type of game.

The Hawks take bad shots and play a more undisciplined style. If they take that approach against the Bulls, another sweep in the second round is not out of the question.

There's a chance they could go off one game and hit everything they throw up there. Former Bull Jamal Crawford fits that role to a "T."

However, it's not something they can sustain over a seven-game series, especially against a Chicago team that is one of the best in the league guarding the three-point circle—where a lot of those shots will be coming from for Atlanta.

Al Horford gave the Bulls trouble in Atlanta's only win against Chicago with 31 points and 16 rebounds. His big game helped them come back from a large halftime deficit to beat the Bulls 83-80.

But he wasn't much of a factor in the other two contests, getting six points and seven rebounds in one and 14 and three in the other game, both blowouts by the Bulls.

Because of a schedule quirk, all of the games were played in March—so it's not like it was early in the season—and the Hawks are a different team now than they were then.

It's also unlikely that Hawk's coach Larry Drew is going to come up with a game plan that's as effective against the Bulls as the one Frank Vogel came up with for the Pacers.

This series is shaping up as a warm-up for the Bulls. They might not cover the spread, but they'll be in the win column when the final horn goes off.

Sit, relax, put your feet up and enjoy. The next series won't be quite as comfortable.

The question looking ahead for the Bulls is who they would rather play in the next round.

I know who my choice is, but I would love to hear yours.