It seems like just yesterday I had a chance to sit down with Atlanta Hawks blogger Will Sevidal, but the Bulls are in Atlanta tonight and when there is an opportunity to talk good basketball, Pippen Ain’t Easy is there. The Hawks enter this game after two straight games in as many days that ended in overtime thrillers. They welcome the Bulls to Atlanta for some home cooking after the norther hospitality the Bulls showed the Hawks on Tuesday resulted in a Bulls win at the end.
1. The obvious story coming into tonight’s game is how Tuesday’s game ended. Going back to that game what did you see down the stretch from the Hawks that led to the lead slipping away from them?
The lead kept getting smaller and smaller for the Hawks for two reasons. The first reason is that the Hawks struggled against the trap defense of the Bulls. The Bulls trap defense made the Hawks have a short clock in seemingly every single possession, and because of that, the ball movement stopped and the players reverted back to their isolation game. The other reason is free throws. It was so frustrating to watch, the Hawks would have probably won the game if they hit their free throws. The Hawks missed 11 of their 25 free throw attempts in that game, including six of their 10 free throw attempts in the 4th quarter.
2. This is the third straight game for the Hawks and it comes after back-to-back overtime burners. How fatigued will the Hawks be in addition to the expected fatigue of the three game back-to-back given the overtime splits.
I expect them to be really fatigued. They have to be physically tired and emotionally drained from the past two games. Heck, I’m physically tired and emotionally drained just from watching the two games….I can’t even imagine what the players are going through. They’re the ones who are playing, practicing, and traveling, I’m just sitting on the couch and tweeting while watching the game.
I’m not sure. All I know is that the Hawks better force the Bulls to slow their tempo down, they can’t get in a running match against the Bulls and expect to win, especially since their legs are probably feeling like jello right now.
But if I had to pick a player to watch out for, it still has to be Derrick Rose. I don’t care how banged up he is, Derrick Rose should always be at the top of the scouting report when facing the Bulls. If he gets it going and has a good game, the Hawks chances’ of winning the game is really slim. The strategy of “let Derrick Rose beat us” probably won’t work, because he probably will if you try that game plan.
4. In that same vein, who should the Bulls be mindful of on the Hawks tonight?
Josh Smith. Josh Smith had the most energy and the highest sense of urgency out of any Hawks player last night. It seemed like he was really highly motivated by all the backlash the team received from losing to the LeBron & Wade-less Miami Heat team on Thursday. Iflast night was an indication of how he’ll come to play against the Bulls, the Bulls better key on him by forcing him to take jump shots and forcing him to play defense on the other end. If not, Smith might just have another great game for the second night in a row.
The Hawks’ bench should be on the scouting report as well. With this being the third game of a back-to-back-to-back, Coach Larry Drew will probably go deep into his bench once again and have them play some big minutes. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach Drew go really deep on the bench and playing Jerry Stackhouse. He probably has the freshest legs out of anyone, even at 37 years old, that’s how tired I think the Hawks are.
5. This game is another great Eastern Conference matchup. The Bulls stole one on Tuesday, so who you go tonight? Do the Hawks exact revenge and finish their three game back-to-back stretch 2-1 in the process?
I really want to pick the Hawks, but almost every fact and reason I can think of is saying that the Bulls are winning this game, so I’ll pick the Bulls. It’s hard enough to pick against the Bulls team as is, but the Hawks are playing them in the 3rd game of a back-to-back-to-back after going a combined four overtime periods in the first two game, so it makes good sense to pick the Bulls tonight. I’ll be rooting for the Hawks to prove me, as well as a lot of people, wrong though.