7:30 p.m. UPDATE: Hawks say Kirk Hinrich is doubtful to play in series vs. Bulls because of “significant strain” to hamstring.
Kirk Hinrich had an MRI this afternoon. The Hawks haven’t released the results yet but say they expect to announce something today. I’m told it didn’t look good for Hinrich last night but there was more optimism today because he was moving better.
If Hinrich can’t play or is very limited, the Hawks are in serious trouble against the Bulls. I’m assuming they can’t suddenly change their offensive habits to the point where they can score efficiently against the league’s best D. They need Hinrich for scoring, too, because if you are going to be a jump-shooting team it’s best to send out as many jump shooters as possible, especially one capable of getting his own.
So it seems Atlanta’s best chance in this series is to play rugged defense and pull out some grinding games. They did that against the Magic but the Dwight Defense is null against Chicago, which plays through D-Rose instead of the post. Among Atlanta’s guards, Hinrich is their best chance to slow D-Rose–if not by staying in front of him, then by going under screens and then recovering to challenge his (so-so) jump shot. As Hinrich showed during the Orlando series, he’s pretty good at that.
Hinrich’s availability is so crucial, in fact, that L.D. and his staff couldn’t really make a lot of decisions on their game plans today because they didn’t know if they’d have Hinrich.
“It certainly changes things,” Drew said. “Hopefully he will be able to go but if he’s not we will have to make an adjustment. Not knowing what we will do at that point, we will talk about it as a staff and then make a decision. We are looking at matchups to see what will work best for us and not really knowing if Kirk can go, can’t go, play some or can’t play at all—a lot of that will change things.”
If Hinrich can’t play or is ineffective, the other options to defend Rose are Teague, J.J., Jamal, and Damien.
L.D. hasn’t put much trust in Teague all season and now would be asking him to guard the best offensive point guard in the league.
“We’ve been talking to Teague already, getting his mind prepared,” Jamal said. “He understands the challenge at hand. I think he’s prepared himself for the opportunity. I think he got a little down when he was not paying as much. Sometimes things work out in strange ways. Now he gets his change to play.”
J.J. doesn’t like checking points and has proven to be effective at it only in small stretches. Plus the Hawks are going to need all the points they can get and tasking J.J. with chasing Rose through screens and also carrying his usual offensive burden is a lot to ask.
“I am sure through course of the series he will spend time on [Rose],” Drew said. “There is a high probability a few guys will see time on him. [The Bulls] put you in a situation where they do force you to switch. Joe has guarded point guards before; he’s comfortable defending point guards. Hopefully it won’t be much. I’d like to keep him off of him.”
Damien generally has fared better against opponents he can body up rather than those who require quick feet. Jamal had his moments playing acceptable team defense against the Magic but clearly this is not an assignment for him.
The pick-and-roll alignment the Hawks used against Jameer and the Magic probably doesn’t make sense. Noah isn’t a big threat on the roll–he’s scored 1.09 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology, but only had 61 attempts. Rose is generally less concerned with kicking out to 3-point shooters than with getting to the basket for scores (he was third among point guards in field-goals per game at the rim with 3.8 and averaged five against the Hawks) or drawing fouls (.35 free-throw rate overall, .32 against the Hawks).
And, anyway, Rose has been much more efficient scoring in isolation (1.09 points per possession, ranked No. 4 in the league) than on screen-rolls (.87 ppp, ranked 45th). It could get ugly for the Hawks if the Bulls clear out for Rose and an Atlanta guard is forced to defend him in space.
There’s some sentiment in the Hawks’ locker room to play a zone against the Bulls. Good luck keeping the Bulls off the glass with that strategy. They were the fourth-best offensive rebounding team this season and they hammered the Hawks on the board in all three meetings this season.
“We have to come up with a game plan to try to slow down the potential MVP,” L.D. said. “It won’t be an easy job; it’s going to be tough. He’s seen probably every conceivable defense there is. One guy won’t do it. It will take a total team effort.”
True, but that effort would appear to be doomed without Hinrich.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat