L.D. says he hasn’t decided on a lineup. Knowing what we know about his ever-shifting rotations, I believe him.
I also believe that if Jamal starts ahead of Teague my blog people will crash the AJC.com servers registering their outrage.
My guess is Drew will go with Teague, J.J., Marvin, Smoove and Al. I figure the only reason he’s still contemplating starting Jamal because of his fondness for shotmakers, which seemed to trump defensive concerns for much of the season. But then L.D saw that the best way to beat the Magic was the Dwight Defense. Now that D-Rose is the big problem, I think L.D. again chooses D over points and sends in Teague.
Yesterday I was going back and forth on whether it’s in the Hawks’ best interest to focus on scoring or grinding. They have more offensive talent than the Bulls, after all. The problem is the Hawks still haven’t figured to play a style that takes advantage of all that talent while the Bulls have mastered Thibodeau’s defensive system.
So eventually I settled on grinding as Atlanta’s best hope for an upset that finally gets them to the East finals. The clincher came today when us media types kept asking Josh questions about scoring and he kept talking about D.
“Defense wins championships. Bottom line,” he said. “You can put the ball in the hole but that part is not [consistent]. It’s a game of imperfections. Sometimes there are going to be nights where you can’t throw it in the ocean.
“It’s how stingy you make your defense and how ugly you make the game. That’s what we’ve got to get. I think we’ve really got that identity and we are OK with it.”
I’m OK with it, too. That’s why I think is the best lineup for Game 1: Teague, J.J., Smoove, Al and . . . Zaza!
The Bulls dominated the Hawks on the boards in all three games and now my lineup has three rebounders. Teague, Zaza and Al are a pretty good pick-and-roll group, too. You get Zaza’s energy and toughness against Noah from the start. After watching Josh work against Turkoglu, I think he has the desire and focus to check Deng as part of another spirited team effort on D.
The bench still has Jamal. He, Damien and Marvin can sub first for Teague, Smoove and Zaza. That’s still a workable defensive alignment, with Damien, Marvin and Al covering for Jamal and Joe. When Zaza, Smoove and Teague return, Al, Joe and Damien come out.
There are weaknesses to my lineup, of course. Basically it includes just three scorers–unless you think Zaza has a chance to get to the rim and finish against Noah or Teague can shake free and convert floaters against an elite D.
Jamal and Joe will do their thing, for better and worse. My lineup probably means Boozer has to spend a lot of time guarding Al and that’s a plus for the Hawks. The hope would be that Smoove takes Deng in the post instead of hanging out at the 3-point line. Better odds on that than Jamal staying engaged on D, right?
But that’s neither here nor there. My lineup is about defense. The Hawks may struggle to score but they need to put pressure on Chicago’s mediocre offense, too.
“It really doesn’t matter about what’s going on at the offensive end,” Josh said. “I think we are doing so good defensively. Offense is going to come. We are making it stingy for the other team to score. As long as we keep that attitude and that mentality I think we will be OK.”
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat