Without Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks’ Round 2 chances take a hit

Here's the man the Hawks have to stop: Derrick Rose. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

To the Hawks' chagrin, we might not see this matchup. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

UPDATED TO REFLECT KIRK HINRICH’S STATUS

Here’s where cold reality tends to descend. Two years running, the Hawks fought through Round 1, pronounced themselves full of confidence and vowed to make an even bigger statement in Round 2. Then they got swept.

Now they’re here again, and an even bigger chill has fallen: Kirk Hinrich, the man designated to defuse Chicago’s Derrick Rose, is listed as “doubtful” for the series with a bad hamstring. The only way for the Hawks ever to reach the Eastern Conference finals, a place they’ve never been, might be if the league grants them a bye.

Last spring the Hawks were swept so egregiously from Round 2 they fired Mike Woodson and promoted his assistant. That bit of personnel shuffling paid no dividends during a regular season that saw them slide from 53 victories to 44, but in Round 1 of these playoffs the new head coach found a way to do what his predecessor could not. Larry Drew beat Orlando, which had beaten the Hawks by an aggregate 101 points last spring.

The Hawks beat Orlando because they had better players — take away Dwight Howard, and the Magic would be the post-LeBron Cavaliers — and a sound defensive scheme. The Bulls don’t have one massive center, but they have Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer down low. Jason Collins will hold lesser value in Round 2.

Neither will the Hawks find the wing mismatches they exploited in Round 1. The Bulls’ shooting guard is Keith Bogans, who does more defending than shooting. He’ll make it harder on Joe Johnson and perhaps Jamal Crawford than the Magic did. Luol Deng is the small forward, and he’s the Bulls’ second-best player.

And then there’s Rose, the presumptive NBA most valuable player. The thought of him working against Jeff Teague, who didn’t log 10 minutes in the six games against Orlando, is terrifying.

At full strength, the Hawks are a fair match for the Bulls in size and skill. In terms of cohesion, the Hawks aren’t close. The Bulls went from 41-41 last season to 62-20 by committing themselves to new coach Tom Thibodeau’s vision. (Thibodeau made his reputation as Doc Rivers’ defensive coordinator in Boston.) Chicago ranked second among NBA teams in points yielded, first in defensive efficiency.

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Some might see the ouster of their nemesis as reason to call this Hawks’ season a success. Such a pronouncement would be premature. As nice as beating the Magic was, the Hawks had already proved they’re good enough to play beyond Round 1. The bigger issue — the reason Woodson was fired and Hinrich imported at great cost — has become Round 2. But now Round 2 seems, once again, a bridge too far.

The Hawks were counting on Hinrich to be their playoff stopper, and he fared well enough against Jameer Nelson. Without him, any expression of optimism is a flight of fancy. And that’s too bad. The Hawks were the No. 4 seed in 2009 and were swept by the 66-win Cavaliers, but three-fifths of the starting lineup was hurting. They were the No. 3 seed last year and were swept by the 59-win Magic. Now they’re in against the team with the NBA’s best record.

If there’s any sliver of hope, it’s that the Bulls are new to this. Chicago hasn’t been past Round 1 since 2007 and hasn’t won Round 2 since Michael Jordan took his sixth title, and these Bulls didn’t exactly overwhelm the sub-.500 Pacers to get here. But if there was one player the Hawks couldn’t afford to lose for this series, it’s the one they’ve lost.

I really liked the Hawks’ chances against Orlando because every matchup save one favored them. There were times in the Magic series when they functioned at a high level, but the Bulls have done that all season. The Bulls have achieved the mesh that has so far eluded the Hawks. But matchups and mesh won’t matter nearly as much as the results of two MRIs: The one done on Rose’s sprained ankle Monday turned out OK; the one performed Friday on Hinrich’s hamstring did not.

With Hinrich, the guess was that the Hawks would make a bit of noise before losing in six. Without him, they’ll do well to win once.

By Mark Bradley

143 comments Add your comment

NCBravesFan

April 29th, 2011
3:10 pm

NCBravesFan

April 29th, 2011
3:15 pm

Mark: excellent analysis. The Hawks are playing with house money – no one is going to give them a chance in this series. Might as well play hard and leave it up to the Bulls live up to their headline billing.

If they can play smart anough and hard enough, this could be a good series.

Mark Bradley

April 29th, 2011
3:16 pm

Kudos, NCBraves.

BigTimeTECHFan

April 29th, 2011
3:17 pm

Hawks win in 6 if Hinrich 100%
Lose in 5 if not

Dr. Warren

April 29th, 2011
3:17 pm

Our best bet against Derrick Rose would be John Abraham.

BCC0224

April 29th, 2011
3:19 pm

2nd…? 3rd…? 10th…?
I think the Bulls win in five, though the Hawks could (bare with me here) take it to seven games, if they play with the same heart they did against the Celtics a few years ago. They played out of their minds in that series – there was no way ATL should’ve taking BOS to seven games, but they did, and scared the poo out of KG and the rest of the boys in green.
But if they don’t play w/ heart, go through the motions, and just go “oh well, we wasn’t supposed to win anyway…” it’ll be a repeat of what the Magic did last year. I honestly hope not.

Hewitt Fan

April 29th, 2011
3:21 pm

@Mark

Deng is garbage!They tried to trade him, but no one wanted his huge contract…i never seen a guy love Duke players more than you.lol..the Hawks can win if Drew continues to use a TRUE center at all times..Al is better than Boozer, Smith, if he plays, is better than Deng.Joe should eat Bogans alive.We clearly have more talent..the Bulls are a one man team.they struggled against a bad pacers team.They were built for the regular season, not the playoffs…They have no answer for Jamal…Hawks in 6..I think you would make a great Duke beat writer..

Mark Bradley

April 29th, 2011
3:21 pm

I think the Hawks could scare the Bulls. Just tough to see them winning four times.

J.J.M.

April 29th, 2011
3:22 pm

Hold up the bulls struggled with the pacers…arent the hawks better than the pacers?

Mark Bradley

April 29th, 2011
3:26 pm

Luol Deng has averaged 16.1 points for his career. Josh Smith has averaged 14.6.

Mark Bradley

April 29th, 2011
3:27 pm

The Hawks are better than the Pacers. But it’s not as if the Hawks blew out the Magic. And the Bulls are better than Orlando.

Time

April 29th, 2011
3:27 pm

Hawks in 6

You don’t worry about keeping Derrick Rose from scoring anymore than you did Dwight Howard. Let him go for 40 a night. Play good defense against the rest. And make some buckets and atleast try to post up Horford and Smith and work inside out.

Time

April 29th, 2011
3:28 pm

Dirk Norwinski

April 29th, 2011
3:29 pm

Was amazing seeing Barkley talk on Inside the NBA about the reasons the Hawks couldn’t compete – it was basically a list of energy, focus, and execution attributes. So sad to see how many bad habits seem permanent in this Hawks team. Hopefully they can rally defensively around shutting Rose down and making someone else beat them…

Hewitt Fan

April 29th, 2011
3:30 pm

@Mark

lol..so you would take Deng over smith?

Am

April 29th, 2011
3:33 pm

Com’on Mark. I hope you are not comparing scoring averages to argue a point. If so, please publish the entire stat line… Josh rebounds, blocks, and plays D better than Dang. 1.5 points per game doesn’t make Dang better at all! (Despite Josh’s poor decisions…maybe you should’ve pointed out turnovers :)

nola hawks fan

April 29th, 2011
3:35 pm

Mark – have you heard any word, rumor, inkling on how Kirk’s leg is doing? I cant find word one on the deal…

i think it all hangs on health of Hinrich. I was thinking about the matchups in this series as bullishly as you were in the Magic series. Hinrich (if ok) will give Rose fits. Al on Boozer, push. etc… Bogans shutting down JJ and/or Jamal? C’mon KY man… no way.

Hey at least we get to have the conversation right… good for ATL and ATL fans

Godfather

April 29th, 2011
3:39 pm

Nobody picked Hawks to beat Orlando, like nobody is picking them to beat the Bulls. These young Hawks obviously do not agree !! Go Hawks beat them all!

BullsFan23

April 29th, 2011
3:40 pm

I love how you have all predetermined that a healthy Kirk Hinrich means a series win for the Hawks. I have news for you, even if was 100% healthy Captain Kirk couldn’t slow down D Rose. With him injured….no chance whatsoever. Bulls in 5.

Mark Bradley

April 29th, 2011
3:42 pm

I picked the Hawks to beat the Magic.

Dr. Warren

April 29th, 2011
3:43 pm

Interesting match-up will be ex-teammates Horford and Noah.

Dr. Warren

April 29th, 2011
3:45 pm

I think Schultz picked the Hawks also. Which makes the AJC duo the only ones.

vdunkndunk

April 29th, 2011
3:49 pm

I think a lot depends on Hinrich’s health. He did a pretty decent job on Rose the first time they played after the Hinrich trade, and he provided a lot of shooting in the Orlando series. If Hinrich can’t go, I think it will really hurt the Hawks.

ncb34

April 29th, 2011
3:52 pm

i think that the pressure is on the bulls, the hawks have that “nothing to lose” attitude, if the hawks jump on them early, watch out. nobody wants to be the other team to lose to the hawks. something about this matchup i like? maybe i’m dumb.. but im not so sure this is already over.

Dirk Norwinski

April 29th, 2011
3:53 pm

If Hinrich can’t go, I think Hawks would be better off starting Teague. He could be the Jason Collins of Point Guards.

Hewitt Fan

April 29th, 2011
3:54 pm

@BullsFan23

sorry to tell you, but your Bulls are a one man team..we will not be defeated by a one man team..boozer, Deng?..come on..hawks in 6 maybe 5 if we play up to our potential..the bulls have the worst talent left out of anyone left in the playoffs!

J.J.M.

April 29th, 2011
3:55 pm

horford plays his best games against noah(wish we could get that every night) so we will have a agressive horford thats for sure

Yeah i want to hear you (Mark) defend Deng over JSmoove

April 29th, 2011
3:57 pm

too. The 1.5 pts per game stat is a pretty weak comparison.

[...] area the Bulls are only 6-23, …NBA Odds: Chicago Bulls meet Atlanta HawksDonbest.comIn Round 2, the Hawks face a Chicago bear of an opponentAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Bulls will face Hawks in next round of playoffsChicago [...]

Antoine Carr

April 29th, 2011
3:59 pm

Mark: You imply Deng is better that JS because he has averages 1.5 points per game more. That is a little rediculous don’t you think. If points are all that matter why is Twin worth anything? Because there are plenty of things as important as points and you know it. I never really thought of it, but the guy that says you love Duke players no matter what might have a point. Mark I do like your blogs and generally agree with your views, but I had to throw that in.

Antoine Carr

April 29th, 2011
4:00 pm

where are my comments?

J.J.M.

April 29th, 2011
4:01 pm

It also doesnt help that there probably will be 50 percent hawks fans at phillips arena

vdunkndunk

April 29th, 2011
4:01 pm

Hinrich can’t shut Rose down, of course, but according to Nick Friedell on ESPN, Rose has said repeatedly that Hinrich guards him tougher than almost any other guard in the league because Hinrich knows Rose’s moves. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first time the Hawks and Bulls played after the Hinrich trade, Rose went 5-21 from the field and the Hawks won – not due solely to Hinrich, but still, if Hinrich is healthy it will give the Hawks a much better chance. If he can’t go or be effective, I’d say the Hawks are in trouble.

freshd

April 29th, 2011
4:02 pm

I think LD should play Teague for uptempo, and Wilkins to defend Rose in this series. The Pacers did a good job of sending double teams at Rose once he crossed halfcourt. If he gets in the lane he will kill you, so the Hawks should make him shoot jumpshots, and keep an eye out for the kickout to Korver for the three.

Antoine Dodson

April 29th, 2011
4:04 pm

You better hide ya kids, hide ya wife, and hide the Atlanta Hawks because Chicago is raping everybody out here

phoenix

April 29th, 2011
4:17 pm

Some of you must be kidding. Bulls a one man team. did anybody bother to watch that last game. As much as I love Hinrich, he does not stand a chance against Rose. Deng

Sorry Atlanta fans, the train stops in Chicago. No way can

guard Derrick, and I’ve always been a Hinrich fan. Deng is garbage???? You Bozo, I can’t wait till he slow down your best. I’m not going to bother to go toe to toe with all the players but leave I will leave it at this!!!! When Chicago turns on its defense you guys are toast. You have no idea. They will shut you down. You barely got by Orlando and they think defense is a woman’s deodorant.

h

Ossie

April 29th, 2011
4:19 pm

The Bulls could have easily lost 3 games to the lowly Pacers. I do think Chicago is a bit over-rated but definitely a better team than the Magic. If the Hawks have a chance in this best of seven series then we need 100& percent from every player on every possession and making the proper adjustments when needed. This will be fight ’till the end but i think our Hawks have more than the capability of beating Chicago. LETS DO THIS HAWKS!!!!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 29th, 2011
4:19 pm

“if Kirk Hinrich isn’t at full gait — he was scheduled for an MRI Friday on the right hamstring he tweaked in Game 6 — the Hawks will have nobody to check the league’s presumptive MVP.”

Well, they do have somebody who can check Rose. He wears #0. The question is whether or not LD will play him.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 29th, 2011
4:23 pm

“Luol Deng has averaged 16.1 points for his career. Josh Smith has averaged 14.6.”

Pretty misleading stat there, since Smoove came into the league straight out of high school whereas Deng came into the league after a year of college ball. Smoove in his 2nd year averaged what Deng averaged as a rookie. Over the last four years their scoring averages are more or less identical.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 29th, 2011
4:25 pm

I agree with the series prediction though. Bulls in 6 sounds about right. Of course I also said Magic in 6, and we see how that ended up.

Hewitt Fan

April 29th, 2011
4:25 pm

@phoenix
Deng is a jump shot shooter, thats it…no D, No rebounds..the bulls are a good regular season team, they played hard every game, they were young and they have Rose, but this is the PLAYOFFS..if Drew starts collins or ZAZA we have a mismatch at 3 diffrent spots..hawks in 5 or 6

Ted M

April 29th, 2011
4:26 pm

Joe Johnson looks skinnier then he did 2 or 3 years ago. I wonder if thats why his production has fallen off.

the only way the Hawks win is if JJ averages 35/game.

GT Alum

April 29th, 2011
4:29 pm

Well, just winning a 2nd round game would be an improvement for these Hawks, so we’ll see what they can do.

MitchC

April 29th, 2011
4:30 pm

I’ve come to expect over the past two years that I’ve been on this blog, that Mark Bradley is usually wrong in his predictions. On this one, I think you’re right, but I dont agree about the number of games it will happen in.

I dont think the Hawks will get swept. I think there might be some interesting games, some of which will be won by less than 10 points, by the Bulls.

My call: Bulls in Five. Hawks will win one game at home, lose all three in Chicago, as well as one at home.

Cousin Vicker

April 29th, 2011
4:35 pm

Bulls will win Game Four to go up 3-1, and then it will be an slaughter in Game 5. So… Bulls in five, but the Hawks win a second round game!

hawkfan

April 29th, 2011
4:35 pm

Outside of DRose, I think the Hawks stil hold favorable (albeit slight) matchups vs. Bulls. Horford vs. Noah, Josh (if he plays smart) vs. Boozer, and Joe vs. Deng should favor the Hawks. But the key will be to keep Rose away from the paint. I expect pick-n-roll and fast break opportunities for the Bulls to be the biggest challeges, in which case Teague could become very valuable (if he is up to the task).

Although MB made a very valid point – Will the Hawks play as consistent and focused as the Bulls? With homecourt favoring Chicago, will the Hawks show toughness on the road?

teewest

April 29th, 2011
4:43 pm

Hey Markus ol Buddy ol Pal how bout a shout out for me there sport? Get my weekend started off right!! Come on Markeezy show some love!!!

Double Zero Eight

April 29th, 2011
4:45 pm

It will take a “perfect storm” for the Bulls to lose the
series to the Hawks. It is possible, but not probable.
Let’s hope the games are reasonably close and
entertaining.

jase

April 29th, 2011
4:46 pm

we need hinrich BAD. if not we gotta hope teague can step up to the plate. but it depends which jeff teague shows up. there is no middle ground with him. he is either full on or horrible. i still say hawks in 6.

MookieBlalock

April 29th, 2011
4:47 pm

It seems like the Hawks problems are obvious on offense. They slow everything down, lack movement and settle for iso-Joe and iso-Jamal. Everyone who watches the Hawks knows this. My question is why do they continue to fall into the same trap? When they penetrate, fast break or swing the ball quickly in the half court, they are successful. It drives me nuts that they don’t continue with what works.