Chicago Bulls: Game 6 vs Atlanta Hawks, the Matchups Will Decide the Winner
Here are the matchup breakdowns for Game 6.
Centers: Al Horford vs Joakim Noah
While Noah won this matchup in the first three games of this series, Horford has come on strong in the last two games.
In Games 3 and 4, Noah has averaged three points and eight and half boards a game, while Horford has tallied 16 points and seven and a half boards per game.
That's a drastic difference from the totals we saw in Games 1 and 2, 11 points per game and 13 boards per game for Noah.
While Horford chipped in eight points and 12 boards during that time. I know Jason Collins is starting at center, but Horford plays the bulk of the Hawks minutes there.
Noah was completely out of sync in Game 5. Though the Bulls showed they could win with little to no production from “The Igniter” a double-double performance would drastically increase their chances to close out Atlanta in six.
Power Forwards: Josh Smith vs Carlos Boozer
J-Smoove has played well in the last two games or so in this series. The Bulls have one player that somewhat matches up with him defensively, Taj Gibson.
The only problem is, Taj doesn’t put much pressure on him on the other end. Don’t let the 11-point “explosion” fool you, Taj is not a dependable scoring option at the four, especially not on the road. Role players always play better at home.
To win this matchup, Boozer will have to get Josh Smith into foul trouble. He needs to take the ball right at him to draw the foul. If he can accomplish this goal, he weakens the Hawks interior defense tremendously.
The issues with this approach are that Smith continues to frustrate Boozer with his length, athleticism and shot blocking.
Also, Boozer is not getting any love from the officials. Some of this is his own doing, he is a sneaky dirty player, especially when he’s frustrated, which has been the case throughout the Playoffs.
Don’t expect the Bulls to win this matchup unless Josh Smith’s shot selection digresses and he reverts back to taking more jump-shots than dribble drives and post moves.
Luckily for the Bulls, they don’t need to win this matchup to win Game 6.
Small Forwards: Luol Deng vs Joe Johnson
Luol Deng has not received nearly enough credit for his defensive work this series, this post season or the regular season.
Deng should take his omission from any of the NBA’s All-Defensive Teams as a slap in the face. Luol does so much defensively that there are no stats to measure.
He has done a very good job on Joe Johnson, even with the two good performances Johnson has put together this series.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important match-ups in Game 6. Deng has done a good job scoring early, but because of the defensive workload on him, he is less aggressive late in the game.
Johnson has averaged 29 points per game in the two Hawks wins in this series and just under 14 points per game in the losses. Johnson’s production has been Atlanta’s most consistent barometer for success in this series.
Deng and Bogans have rotated on Johnson since Game 2 and have done a good job on him. The Bulls can dominate this matchup by making him work on defense, which he hasn't done all series.
Deng driving to the basket anytime Johnson is on him is a great strategy. If the Bulls give over 20 points to Johnson, we may be looking at a Game 7.
Shooting Guard: Jamal Crawford vs Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver & Ronnie Brewer
Jamal Crawford plays the bulk of the minutes at the two-guard for Atlanta, while the Bulls employ the two-by committee approach.
This is especially true in this series when the usual favorite for the minutes, Kyle Korver, is an absolute liability.
Korver is a game changer when he's making his shot. When he's not, the slow footed dirty Ashton Kutcher, can't check a ballot. In this series it is really hurting the Bulls because the Hawks are so athletic, there is no where to hide him on defense.
Can he check Johnson? No. Can he check Teague? Tried that, no. Can he check Crawford? Hell to the nawl, Crawford likes to embarrass him, its like a hard court high for him.
Needless to say, there is increased pressure on him knowing his defensive deficiencies.
Bogans has been very unsung in this series. He's played solid defense and get this, he has shot nine for 18 from three point range. That's 50 percent Bulls fans. The Bulls will take this from Bogans all day and twice on Sundays.
Bogans offers the Bulls the best option at both ends right now. He's playing his normal solid defense, but he's out shooting the shooter Korver. The three-point basket spreads the floor and spacing is the most valuable thing to any offense, especially the Bulls.
Crawford hasn't had a big game since Game 1. He is one of the players that when hot, he'll make tough shots over the defense.
The Bulls can't afford to drop the handle on him that they've had the last four games. A breakout game from the streaky but deadly Crawford spells trouble.
Point Guard: Jeff Teague vs Derrick Rose
This one is a lay up for Chicago, right? Not necessarily. The Hawks don't require half as much from their young point guard as the Bulls do from the league MVP.
If Rose goes for 35 points, it will undoubtedly be big, but it'll likely come on 25-plus shots. If Teague goes for 22 points, will it be bigger than Rose's 35?
Oddly enough, Teague is only averaging 11 points per game in the hawks two wins in the series. He has 21 points in each of the three losses. The assist were down in every game except Game 5.
Even though the Bulls have won the games that Teague has scored the most, they don't want to completely allow him to be uncorked.
The Bulls defense needs to force Teague to hurt them from outside and not allow the lightning quick and athletic point guard to convert in the paint. He is only one for six from three point range in the series.
Rose will not disappoint. Outside shot falling or not, he'll score and facilitate, until its time to take over.
He remains the biggest reason the Bulls will prevail in this series.