NBA Playoffs 2011: 5 Things Atlanta Hawks Need to Do to Beat the Chicago Bulls
Kudos to the Chicago Bulls for earning the top seed in the eastern conference and advancing to the conference semifinals for the first time in eons.
It is a testament to their coach and their grit/determination as a team. That being said, it doesn't mean that they cannot be beaten. They have shown enough of their weakness to give teams like the Atlanta Hawks hope that they can compete with them.
We know about Derrick Rose, and how he can carry this team on his back if necessary. The rest of the team gets it done in a blue collar kind of way.
They are fundamentally sound. They are where they are supposed to be on offense, and especially on defense, all the time. They beat you up physically, and then when called for, they seem to be able to hit the big shot in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks were not the most consistent team this year, but that doesn't matter in the playoffs. They actually match up pretty well with the Bulls.
If they can get big performances from a couple of their stars, they can find themselves in the conference finals. They haven't played like it all the time, but the Hawks have a lot of talent.
They play a similar style to the Bulls, but they are just not as disciplined. Here is what needs to happen for them to pull off the upset and send the Bulls packing.
Joe Johnson Needs to Play Like an All-Star and Take Control
Joe Johnson needs to be the focal point of the offense when he is in the game. This is not Orlando. He can't get passive and defer to his teammates all the time.
He must get the ball and either make a move to the basket and score or create an easy basket for one of his guys. He has to win his match-up and win it big.
He has disappeared in this round of the playoffs for too many years now, and the funny thing is, he has the talent to take a game over.
He will have to overcome Chicago's swarming defense, but that is what max contract stars do. Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Wade, Lebron, Melo, Stoudemire, Rose...that is what they do when the chips are down.
They don't care who is in front of them. They just take over and put their teams on their back. Johnson will have to do it from the post sometimes and has to take advantage of every time they are in transition.
When there is just one defender on him, he needs to take it strong to the hoop and get to the line. Put pressure on the defense. Don't give it to Josh Smith to hoist jump shots.
The Hawks need Johnson to come up big in the fourth quarter of all these games and put up at least 20 to 25 every night to have a chance.
Josh Smith Needs to Assert Himself Inside Against Boozer and Bulky Bulls
It is time for Josh Smith to grow up basketball-wise and realize what he is, and what he is not. Next to Rose, he is the most talented player out there.
Whatever Boozer does, Smith has to be better. He has to block shots and get the tough rebounds. He has to team with Horford and be the tough guy in the post.
He is strong, long and can jump out of the gym, but at times he chooses to get lost on the perimeter. He must resist that and go mano-y-mano with the Bulls big guys inside and win the battles.
He can beat Boozer up the court and catch alley-oops. He is going to be a critical weak side defender on Rose because of his quickness.
It is very important that he stay out of foul trouble. The Hawks don't have a lot of quality size, so he has to play big minutes.
Time for Smith to grow up and take the next stage in his development. This is the perfect time to do it because there is no one on Chicago's front line that is as multi-talented as he is.
I like Boozer, but he has not played like he did in Utah. Chicago is not utilizing him like Utah did.
Jamal Crawford Must Be Big off the Bench for the Hawks
Crawford will get a lot of time at the point guard spot because of the injury to Kirk Hinrich. He is going to have to be like Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson from the old championship Detroit Pistons teams.
Vinnie came in the game off the bench and was instant offense, putting up shots from everywhere and on every one. Crawford will have to have the heart of an assassin. If Rose is on him, he has to try to abuse him and make him expend a lot of energy.
Crawford can do that to you. When he is on, there is no one in the league that can stop him. If he starts hitting the three ball, that will open it up for Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.
You know Crawford will not be deterred if he misses a few. Many times he is the guy at the end of the game that is taking over and trying to finish it. That is the kind of player he is. Fearless.
That's the type of player that will give the Bulls problems. He will not wilt under the pressure. For the Hawks to win Crawford has to lead the charge from off the bench. If he does, Chicago could be in trouble.
Chicago's Role Players Have to Be Shut Down for Atlanta to Have a Chance
The Hawks can't get too caught up in stopping Rose. Others have tried but to no avail. He is going to get his points. What Atlanta has to do is force him to try to score almost every time he has the ball.
If the role players and bench players for Chicago are effective and scoring points, Atlanta is in trouble. They have to stay at home and tighten up on guys like Kyle Korver, Luol Deng and Keith Bogans.
If the Hawks can minimize what the other perimeter players of the Bulls are doing, that will force Rose to try to take on their whole team by himself.
Some may say that is not a good idea, given that Rose is capable of putting up fifty points. I say it is, because it is never one man that beats you. Deng has had some big games already in these playoffs.
Korver is deadly from three and they count on him for contributions each game. Bogans likes to hang out in the corner in transition and hit open threes.
If pressure is put on their other players, they will defer back to Rose and over the course of the game, he will wear down. A hard foul or two wouldn't hurt either.
Hawks Have to Gang Rebound, Eliminate Second Chances for Noah and Boozer
Al Horford is the toughest player the Hawks have in their front court. He cannot be left alone to battle the Bulls bigs by himself.
Chicago covers up their offensive deficiencies by getting a lot of second chance shots. They bang and crash the boards hard. If everyone on the Hawks boxes out and gang rebounds, they will snuff out one of the major avenues the Bulls go down to get points.
They can't be in too much of a hurry to get on the break. That will lead to second chance points for the Bulls. Gain possession of the ball off the glass first.
They can still get some easy baskets in transition. Aside from Rose, they are the quicker and faster team out on the perimeter.
This is where they will need physical guys like Zaza Pachulia to come off the bench and assert themselves on the glass. Jason Collins will be key as well. He has to use his veteran savvy so he doesn't get abused in the paint.
Atlanta will have to show Chicago that they are willing to mix it up with them inside, and pay the price. If they limit their offensive rebounds, they will be in good shape to get one of these first two games.