Two weeks ago, the Hawks came home after a split of their first two playoff games in Orlando and we wondered if Philips Arena would turn into a shop of horrors (as it had so often this season).
Then they won two games to take a stunning 3-1 series lead over an Orlando team and closed out the series in six games. They went 3-0 at home. Suddenly we dare to think: Can they do the same against Chicago and win this series over the Bulls — without Kirk Hinrich?
Having split the first two games at Chicago, the Hawks can take this second-round series simply by winning their home games again — something that would not have seemed plausible before the Orlando series.
Before the Magic series, coach Larry Drew wondered himself about home-court advantage, but his feeling changed after the first two games in Orlando.
“Coming back from Orlando after game two, I could sense the confidence level, the energy level,” he said. “When you start the playoffs on the road it’s a tough task. Coming home I knew we would play with more energy How well we would play, I didn’t know. But I knew the energy level would be there. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you over the hump. You don’t have to play particularly well, but if your energy level is there it will keep you in ball games.”
Couple of things before we get this thing started:
– Carlos Boozer is playing despite his toe injury. Rumors were circulating that wasn’t the case but he’s in the lineup. “I can play through it,” he said this morning.
– If you missed it, Jamal Crawford’s comments from after game two — “If that’s their best shot, we’re in good shape.” — were blown up in Chicago. It will be interesting to see if the Bulls go after him at all.
– Josh Smith drew criticism after going 4 for 14 in game two (which followed 3 for 11 in game one). Drew had him sit down for an extended film session and came away convinced Smith will be better tonight, focusing less on jump shots and more on defense, rebound and taking the ball inside. “I need to him to be better and he’s in total agreement,” Drew said.
– The Hawks also will need more offense from Al Horford, who went 3 for 12 in the last game and was outplayed by his former Florida teammate, Joakim Noah. He credited the Bulls’ defense but said, “A lot of that has to do with me. I settled for the jump shot when I need to go to the basket more.”
That’s it for now. What are your thoughts on tonight and how many of you — honestly — actually thought the Hawks would be in a position to take a series lead tonight?
By Jeff Schultz