CHICAGO — They are angry here. Ever notice how when the Hawks win, the media in the other city gets really angry. I’m sure glad we’re not like that in Atlanta.
(Pause for effect.)
The Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record (62-20), but here they are tied in a second-round series with the Hawks through four games and, as the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times read, they are, “Mad Men.” They’re blaming themselves for letting up defensively and going soft in the Hawks’ 100-88 win in Game 4, similar to how the Hawks’ blamed themselves for falling flat in Game 3.
Hawks players say they will not let down this time after the high of winning Sunday. But we’ve learned not to assume anything.
So who’s feeling more pressure this game? A case could be made for either team. If the Hawks lose, they will be faced with the task of having to win consecutive games over the Bulls, including a Game 7 back in Chicago. If the Bulls win, it means they go down 3-2 with the series shifting back to Atlanta for a potential clinching Game 6.
The difference: Chicago came into the playoffs with much higher expectation than the team that lost its final six of the regular season.
Hawks coach Larry Drew weighs in: “I feel like the pressure is on them.”
The last time the Hawks were in this situation was the 1987-88 Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston. They won Game 5 at Boston but lost the next two and dropped the most memorable postseason series in Atlanta franchise history.
Drew met with the media again a little while ago and was asked if he had a thought how the game might be officiated. There’s a perception in games like this that the higher profile team (Chicago) often gets more calls to go its way.
“You could argue [Derrick] Rose has been fouled more in this series. You can argue Joe Johnson has been fouled more,” Drew said. “But we don’t use that as a crutch. I don’t want my players to do that and as a coach I certainly never will do that.”
That’s it for now. As always, I’ll be here to serve you, blogging live for the Hawks’ latest most important game of the season.
By Jeff Schultz
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