Down 3-2, the Hawks fully believe they can take this series

It's not as if the top-seeded Chi crew hasn't had to exert itself. (AP photo)

You know, it's not as if the top-seeded Chitown crew hasn't had to exert itself. (AP photo)

For the trailing team playing at home, Game 6 is a measure of belief. Of real believing, as opposed to lip service. For the trailing team playing at home, Game 6 brings this mighty question: Do you believe you can win not just this game but the one after that?

A Game 7 on the road is no day at the races. There was a time when winning Game 7 in the other team’s building was nigh-impossible — from 1982 through 1999, it happened twice — but such is no longer the case. Eight road teams have won a Game 7 since 2000. At issue is whether the Hawks might join the list.

If anything, they look more robust down 3-2 than they did 2-1, and there’s a reason: The Hawks have seen everything the Bulls can do. The No. 1 seed has been stout enough to nose  in front but not to lap its pursuer. Except for Game 3, the Hawks have run alongside the purported big dog.

The Bulls played the league’s most efficient defense during the regular season, but it’s apparent they can’t guard this bunch the way they’ve guarded others. Over 82 games, Bulls opponents made 43 percent of their shots. The Hawks have made 45.9 percent in this series, and that’s with a 33.8 percent clunker in Game 2.

The Hawks are as quick as the Bulls, and they don’t appear any less gifted. Rather than be daunted by the prowess of the opposition, the Hawks have grown in confidence. There’s not much separating these teams; if there were, it’d be showing. What’s showing is that the Bulls required key minutes from subs Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik to survive Game 5.

Remember: The Bulls are supposed to win this series. The Hawks weren’t expected to take more than a game. That they’ve carried the No. 1 seed to Game 6 without Kirk Hinrich brands this playoff run, as opposed to the past two, a success.  Forget playing with house money — the Hawks are seeking foreclose on the Bulls’ house.

To do it, they’d have to win Game 7 in that house, but they’ve won once there already. To reach Game 7, they have to negotiate Game 6 here. They made it clear after Wednesday’s practice they expect to win Thursday. “Well, our backs are against the wall,” said Larry Drew, the coach, sounding almost serene.

Back to shooting percentages: The Hawks are hitting better against Chicago than they did against Orlando, which had all manner of bad matchups on the perimeter. In Game 5 the Hawks chased Kyle Korver, the best Bull shooter, off the floor. He played only four minutes.

“I really thought we’d see more of Korver,” Drew said. “But I think they’re more concerned with the defensive end.”

Believing comes easier when you know you can score. The Hawks have topped 100 points twice in the series, and not incidentally they won both games. Asked if he believes the Bulls are scrambling to find guys capable of defending his Hawks, Drew said: “At times I do feel like that.”

We return to the buzzwords that have attached itself to these Hawk: “Fragile” is one; the other, and the one that matters in this series, is “talented.” The Hawks have no fear of being overwhelmed by the Bulls’ weight of numbers. The Bulls win on execution. If the Hawks mess up Chicago’s execution, the advantage swings to them. Because their players are better.

Five games have been played. That’s 240 minutes of basketball. The Hawks have seen nothing over those 240 minutes to make them think they cannot win twice more.

Said Josh Smith: “We’ve got to go in and get Game 6 … We know we’ve given ourselves an opportunity [in this series]. Deep down in our hearts, we believe we can go up there and win Game 7.”

Three years ago, many of these Hawks surged from behind to win a rousing Game 6 here against Boston. They thought they had a chance in Game 7 at the new Garden but were too young to know better. They lost 99-65. This team is older and better, and these Bulls aren’t those Bostonians.

The Hawks trail 3-2, but they are not afraid. They believe they can win this thing. They might be correct.

By Mark Bradley

135 comments Add your comment

Paul H

May 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

Kudos, Paul H.

Paul H

May 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

I believe the Hawks could’ve already taken this series. A couple 4th quarter lapses is the only difference.

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2011
2:37 pm

I should point out that the same applies to the Bulls. Had they held their lead — it was a small one, but a lead all the same — in the final quarter of Game 4 … well, you know.

ole richie

May 11th, 2011
2:40 pm

great article MB

Farnsworth

May 11th, 2011
2:43 pm

I believe that the Hawks will win the series. I also saw and talked to Elvis yesterday.

Adam

May 11th, 2011
2:44 pm

These next five days represent the five most important days of Hawks basketball in the last 23 years. Am I crazy to think the Hawks can not only win Game 6, but win decisively? I think the atmosphere at the Highlight Factory will be off the charts, and I’m expecting a great performance by the home team.

Am I insane to think those things?

J.J.M.

May 11th, 2011
2:51 pm

hawks will win the series if the refs stop calling all these superstar foul calls for rose. Every time he drives the ball theres a whistle being blown. They also made up for that miss call in game 4 last night to help the bulls…but we all know david stern “fans and media wants to see heat vs bulls because both teams have superstars and more fans know about them” instead of showing a good hawks team respect.

Matt from MN

May 11th, 2011
2:53 pm

Not gonna happen. Da Bulls over Team Schizo in 6.

El Bravo

May 11th, 2011
2:54 pm

I hate to hear them talk about game 7. Game 7 should not even be on their radar. Let’s we forget how easy it is for this team to daydream and under-perform during the task at hand because they start thinking that they are much better than they really are. I hope they come out for game six with the right intensity and start thinking about seven when it gets here…

clay

May 11th, 2011
2:57 pm

As i say again. We will know if the hawks will win the game by the first five min.

Here we go again

May 11th, 2011
2:58 pm

It’s about Joe Johnson. He’s our closer. He needs to play like he’s making $120 million. That’s the biggest thing if we’re gonna win 2 straight.

That’s of course assuming that Josh Smith can go another 2 games playing with energy, intensity, and focus, getting rebounds and not making silly jump shots. And that Teague will continue to drive to the hole and make good decisions. And that Horford plays well and gets on the glass as well.

But even if not everything else goes “according to plan,” Joe Johnson (and Crawford) have to keep us in it.

Harvey Updyke

May 11th, 2011
2:58 pm

Roll damn tide

DEXTER- US ARMY

May 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

I am know longer the guy everybody laughs at for being a diehard ATL fan after 26 years of serving my country and pulling for the home team year after year I am doing laughing now we have a point guard and we are giving the bulls all they can handle HAWKS IN 7

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

Kudos, DEXTER.

Tom

May 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

Well, if the Bulls are scrambling to guard the Hawks, they scramble pretty good by holding them to 83

Mark Bradley

May 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

Not 83 points a game. It’s actually 88.2 the Hawks are scoring. They averaged 86.7 against Orlando.

Tony from Stone Mountain

May 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Mark, how do you feel about the foul and non calls of game 5? The tackle by Derrick Rose irks me to no end!

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:13 pm

Me being a Hawks fan i will man up and admit i have been wrong wtih Teague and will take what he has shown as a plus win lose or draw and his play has me not carring about the outcome even though i know we can win this seires. Josh the past two games has played like he should play all the time on the block 85% of the time and if he truely gets it i will admit this time next year i was wrong about tradeing it… Now to last nights game can someone our the coaches please tell Big Al and other Hawks when we run our ISO sets to stop stareing like fans and move and cut without the ball and also tell Big Al on pick and roles to mix in going to the rack and staying put for his jumper. IN the 4th quater their bigs were playing off of him and woudl recover if we kicked out to him. High percentage shots are always better then long jumpers even if he can make them how i can see this along withotehr fans and him and our coaches cant just like all the stuff we all talk about on here is silly. I was not a teague fan but have at least cried to play the kid to see what he could do and now they were forced to had that not happen we would have im sure lost him or traded him for nothing!!!!!!!!

J.J.M.

May 11th, 2011
3:15 pm

Side note: I dont think we can win games with teague being the leading scorer

Dawgnation

May 11th, 2011
3:18 pm

So many times I’ve actually believed in this team. I thought they could win the Orlando series and nobody believed me. I thought they could win this series, and they can. I think it’s pretty clear that as a team the Hawks are more talented than the Bulls are. If they keep their composure they can beat any team in the league. But, do we actually think they can do that? But there’s nothing in their history to show me that the Hawks won’t blow up when it really counts. That doesn’t mean that I won’t pull for them and it doesn’t mean I don’t believe they can win. I guess that’s what being a fan is all about.

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:19 pm

Joe has been playing good the bulls are hitting him with hard double teams he has to find shots other ways but if our guys dont make it so easy for him to defend when they hit him with a double team then he will be forced to single coverage like in game one and be able to do his thing.

Bulls win in 6

May 11th, 2011
3:22 pm

“Am I crazy to think the Hawks can not only win Game 6, but win decisively?”

Well since they haven’t won any decisively yet then yes crazy..

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:22 pm

Can we also tell our players to make cuts when we run our iso’s and stop watching like fans!!! Also tell Big Al on pick and rolls to mix in cutting to the goal and not settling for jumpers he is making it easy to defend if he does not mix in differnt looks. Their bigs in the 4th quarter saw this and were ok with him hitting 18 footers they were turning they back to him. On thing about this team is fans see so much so it amazes me how the players, coaches and guys in the front office dont!!! I will also man up on teague i was wrong but i did like everyone else say we need to play him to find out about what he will be but we had to be forced to play him to see his game!!!!

Bulls win in 6

May 11th, 2011
3:23 pm

“but we all know david stern “fans and media wants to see heat vs bulls because both teams have superstars and more fans know about them” instead of showing a good hawks team respect.”

You mean like calling 89 fouls on the bulls so far and only 84 fouls on the hawks even though the bulls go to the basket far more?? hmm…

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:23 pm

I pray that we win but if we dont will be 10 times happier this year going out in the 2nd round knowing that we found a point guard finally after all these years!!! Lets pray that these last two games Josh has learned that he should play this way (85% in the post) from here on out and being an all-star will come very soon if not being on the block will come sooner!!!!!

ncb34

May 11th, 2011
3:24 pm

it’s simple. shoot. the. ball. joe.
everyone else is doing work, but not the guy who’s being paid more than lebron.

AceDawg

May 11th, 2011
3:28 pm

Teague is the reason the Hawks have had a chance, no doubt about it. Crawford owes the Hawks big after being below average on offense and defense. Joe Johnson needs to hit some big shots too.

I do think the Hawks are the most confident they have been in years, but I can’t see them winning either game without Crawford and Johnson producing at least 35 or 40 combined each game.

Hankie Aron

May 11th, 2011
3:28 pm

At least it’s entertaining as opposed to the terrible 4 game beatdown they took last year at the hands of Orlando. Maybe last year Josh “Smoove” Smith was sleeping with the $120 million dollar man Joe Johnson’s wife

Steve

May 11th, 2011
3:28 pm

They also believed they would win last night too. Just don’t see them winning the next two. Yet another year without getting past round 2!

Hankie Aron

May 11th, 2011
3:30 pm

Hey it might have happened, I mean look at the Lakers and their soap opera. What’s the over/under Pau Gasol has played his last game in the purple/gold?

Connie Lingous

May 11th, 2011
3:32 pm

Josh’s comment near the end is extremely ominous for Hawks fans – he should not be thinking of anything beyond game 6 – the fact that he’s already got it in the win column tells me we’re losing Thursday – oh well, at least we’ve got Teague for next season.

joey1

May 11th, 2011
3:33 pm

AGAIN 1st the officiating was horrible in the 4th q in favor of the bulls, it didnt help the hawks offense got stagnant they need to let teague handle every possession and not every now and then, teague has showed us he will be a very good point guard that is being unleashed now. dont ever let jamal bring the ball up the court he slows down our offense to iso plays. if we run him and joe off screens and let teague drive and kick and pick and roll the hawks offense would not have crumbled,,,but i really do believe and how belived it for years that the nba wants to see the prime matchups with all the star player and they will do anything to make it happen. im a diehard hawks fan but could you imagine hawks and grizzles in the finals,,,, the nba would have a cow

oldmike

May 11th, 2011
3:34 pm

JC needs to stay on bench in crunch time if game is on line. JT dribble drive penetration is key to winning. Plus no JC is addition by subtraction meaning JT runs the point, guards Rose or Korver which tyanslates into better possessions on both sides. Last night was a big opportunity lost but they found their heart and will. Now they need to hold serve in game 6 and then go to Chi town and drop DRose on his azz when he drives the lane and win this series.

Ted M

May 11th, 2011
3:34 pm

The Hawks believe they can win the series if they try. They just haven’t decided if they are going to try.

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:35 pm

Joe not like Lebron and guys like that we need to stop trying to turn him into them. He dont force or take bad shots unless he has the ball with the shot clocking running down. He does enough for us by comending a double team or working out on his man if you dont double. We have otehr guys that can score too so i woudl rather him be 6-12 then 7-24. He does right by takeing good shots. Him turning into gunner mode wont be the reason we win or lose…

Tom

May 11th, 2011
3:35 pm

True, meant last night…Bulls much more used to this style of game however – that’s how they’ve won all year. They’re more comfortable in the 80s and low 90s. If the Hawks score >mid – high 90s they’re gonna win. But they haven’t scored as consistently for a reason – has nothing to do with the Bulls ’scrambling’, i.e., desperately trying to figure out an answer defensively. Rather, they execute their defensive game plan better than the Hawks execute their offensive game plan when the score is that low.

The Game Has Changed

May 11th, 2011
3:36 pm

The Bulls are no chop liver. We just have to grind out game 6. I think our experience in game 7 will prevail. Then we can give Drew a raise.

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:38 pm

I do agree Crawford has been awful in the losses and needs to step up..

The Game Has Changed

May 11th, 2011
3:38 pm

@NCB 34- Its not Joe fault he is making more than Lebron. That was Lebrons decision to go and try to buy a ring in Miami. Joe had a chance to go to Chicago for almost the same amount of money.

Hawkeye

May 11th, 2011
3:41 pm

If we have learned anything from this series, its that Teague is a legit starter for next season. Josh Smith has really stepped up. Now all we need is some consistency from Crawford and Joe..I am proud of this team for what they have accomplished so far,Even when the refs calls against us are debatable. I know its all about the ratings and the association would want nothing short of a Bulls Heat matchup..$$$$$ cha-ching..

Ted M

May 11th, 2011
3:42 pm

Mark – Are you trying on purpose to perpetuate streak of bad predictions?

Ted M

May 11th, 2011
3:42 pm

perpetuate your streak

Nate D

May 11th, 2011
3:44 pm

Crawford has not done alot in this match. If we win yay for us, if we lose they is still room to imrove at the center and figure out who is going to play the 3.

Vick Supporter

May 11th, 2011
3:47 pm

We need 10-15pts from Marvin. I guess thats asking for a lot since he was a #2 pink in the draft,lol. I gurantee you, if the #2 pink in the draft could give us 10-15 points, we could win game 6 and if he did it in CHI we could win the series. Its a shame that we’re wishing a #2 draft pick, who’s supposed to be able to score if anything else, could give us 10pts.

Anyway, GO HAWKS

Mr. Mojo

May 11th, 2011
3:53 pm

The Hawks look like they are finally maturing two years ago they would of been blown out on the road in Game 5. I beleive they can win the next two they just need to come out and play hard and play solid defense and take the ball to the rim more. We need the highlight factory loud as can be tomorrow night. Lets take game 6 and anything can happen in a game 7.

K-Dogg

May 11th, 2011
3:53 pm

Yeah i cant blame Joe if we go out. We are kinda getting out coached and some guys are not stepping up and Rose is ot of this world. Joe has not played bad and im not defending him b/c he sucked it up last year vs the magic and really most of this year even though he had injuries but we cant expect him to be lebron, Kobe, Rose or Wade b/c that not his style and he is not out of this world athletic like those guys he hits open shots post up guys and commends a double team thats all we can ask him to do if he is doubled kick it to guys to knock down shots or cut to the baskets for layups and if they single cover him put up 30… Dirk does it for the mavs all the time our coaches just need to tell our gusy to move more when we run iso sets!!!!! Watch how they play this next game when Joe or Jamal have the ball on iso plays i mean Joe does it to they stand still and if a guy comes to help they kick it to a guy for a 18 foot jumper instead of them breaking down their guy someone helping and us getting a layup…

Mr. Mojo

May 11th, 2011
3:55 pm

Terrell

May 11th, 2011
3:57 pm

Farnsworth

You saw Elvis too? Wow this is such a small world!

steve brown

May 11th, 2011
3:59 pm

Josh Smith plays his “once in a blue moon” game and now he is our leader, spokesman, hero, role model and our Moses to lead us to the promised land. For God sakes please quote somebody else, stop showing his picture and pray he plays somewhere else next season. I would rather roam the desert!