Who's got next? Hawks or Magic and other playoff action

The Atlanta Hawks lead their first round matchup 3-1 against the Orlando Magic, and after playing four close games.  Orlando finally played like Orlando, Atlanta played like Atlanta, and the result was a butt whipping of epic proportions.

Frank Vogel has to look at this series and think it's what the Bulls/Pacers series should have been.   He'd be wrong, but I'm sure he thinks it.

Lots of similarities in the first five games, but an MVP sized difference in the outcome

Game 1: Both favorites play like crap and fall into huge deficits.   Both star players put up statement cases for their MVP credential.   Derrick Rose becomes an unstoppable God in the clutch leading his team to a win.   Dwight Howard puts up stats so monster you can start comparing them to all time great statistical playoff performances.   Oh yeah, his team lost btw.

Game 2: After a tight game one, both teams are expected to come out and play with huge energy and blow the doors off the upstart opponent.    Both teams still struggle to defeat their opponent, but both teams pull off the win.

Game 3: Fans of both squads are wondering what the hell they've gotten into, but still figure this series is in the bag, and their team will start playing better.  Both games go down to the wire with the favorite in a tough spot.    Derrick Rose with the game winner.  The Magic can't even go to Dwight Howard.

Game 4: Different vibe going into the game for both teams, but the result is the same, both teams get down big, both teams make furious runs at the close.   Both teams fall short.

Game 5: Both teams come out and finally play their game and absolutely annihilate their competition.

The Bulls won in five.   The Magic are down 3-2.   The difference?   Derrick Rose vs Dwight Howard.   Talk about the lousy cast all you want, but throughout most of this Pacer series, the Bulls cast was atrocious.   Derrick Rose wore his cast like 10lb ankle weights for most of the first round, and won anyway. 

Derrick Rose is a closer.   Dwight Howard isn't.   As special as you are in the NBA, the most important 2-3 minutes are at the end of the game when Derrick Rose is at his best and Dwight Howard is at his worst.

Thoughts on facing the Hawks

They have a versatile and balanced scoring attack when playing well.   The type of attack that tends to give the Bulls more trouble than a singularly focused star player.

Unfortunately for them, they have a tendency to launch bad shot after bad shot, and the Bulls defense forces teams into a lot of bad shots already.   I don't think Atlanta can execute well enough against Chicago over a series to do much damage.

I trust Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer, or Keith Bogans to defend Joe Johnson adequately one on one, and the rest of the scorers are good, but not scary good.   I don't think they have any answer defensively for Derrick Rose.  Hinrich might be their best perimeter defender, but as we know, he struggles with quicker guards and defends better against larger physical guys.

Looking at the Hawks offense, there's no one that you look at and go "wow that matchup is going to be really tough for us".   The scariest matchup might be Josh Smith taking Carlos Boozer outside, and watching the Hawks, if Smith is going outside then all the better for us anyway.

It's simply hard for me to see Atlanta beating Chicago unless Chicago lays a massive egg. The Bulls A game is simply much better than the Hawks A game.

Thoughts on facing the Magic

Dwight Howard still represents a monster sized problem for Chicago.  While Asik did an admirable job against him in the regular season, I don't necessarily trust him in the playoffs to do the same.   The Bulls do have plenty of bodies to throw at Howard, but obviously, he's the type of guy there is no matchup for.

If their shooters shoot well, the Magic can simply take out anyone.   When their shooters don't shoot well, they can also lose to just about anyone.

I also love the fact that in the final two minutes, the Bulls offense naturally goes to it's strength which is Derrick Rose in isolation to create for himself or someone else.  The Magic offense goes to it's weakness and tries to create a shot with Turkoglu or Nelson around the perimeter.

As such, I see the Bulls with a large advantage down the stretch of close games.

Now any team can knock out any other if they get great shooting for an extended stretch, but unlike the Hawks, the Magic have an offense designed to create great shooting by maximizing corner threes, loading things up with shooters, and an inside  out game that creates great shots.

The Magic's A game and the Bulls A game aren't far apart.  Advantage Chicago, but not in overwhelming fashion.

I've never watched so much basketball in my life

Maybe it's because after so many years, the Bulls can finally win, but I've never been this into the playoffs in my life.   I've still kept up my streak of watching at least one quarter of every game, at least a half of almost every game, and all of a bunch more.

Some random thoughts around the playoffs so far.

I don't think we learned much about Boston or Miami

They're officially going to square off in the second round, and quite frankly, after their first round series, I don't think we learned much about either team.   I had severe doubts about Boston going into the playoffs, and while they're the only team to sweep, they ended up with by far the easiest matchup in the NBA facing a struggling Knicks team that ended up with significant injuries.

Miami didn't have to prove much either.  The 76ers had a hot streak during the regular season, but ultimately, it's typically not hard to adjust to a team with no one who kills you off the dribble, no dominant low post option, and lousy outside shooting.  

Are the Grizzlies the best eight seed going into the playoffs ever?   

They might be.   They played tremendously well to end the season, and they've carried that straight into the playoffs.   Watching Zach Randolph makes me embarrassed that I wanted no part of him on my team.

That is until I remember he was possibly going to miss this season due to jailtime for trying to start up his own drug cartel.   Yeah, the downsides of Randolph still pretty big when you step back and think about it.

The Spurs pulled a horseshoe out of their ass to not be eliminated last night, and while I'm certainly not going to be shocked if San Antonio comes back and wins this thing, Memphis has to have the advantage at this point.  

Despite Memphis's standing as a really, really good team, possibly the eighth or so best team in the NBA rather than a legit eight seed, the Spurs are still showing you why they're not scary at all.   There's no doubt in my mind the Bulls would wipe the floor with them in a series if they played.

The Hornets have shown why the Bulls can beat LA

The Hornets have played tough.  I thought on talent, they might be the weakest team in the playoffs as they're entering without one of their best players.   If they had David West, would the Hornets have beaten LA (yes, I realize they still could, but not holding my breath)?

The Lakers simply can't defend quicker point guards, and they're going to struggle against the Thunder and would struggle against Chicago if the teams meet.   They'll have no answer for Westbrook/Rose.

Dirk's shedding the underachiever label, at least so far

Watching this series, Dirk has really been tremendous and clutch closing out some games.  However, the Blazers did mount one huge comeback, and while their down 2-3 right now, I still can't bring myself to have faith that the Mavs close this thing out. 

I thought this was the most interesting first round series going in, but it's been somewhat lost in the shuffle with the excitement of the rest of the Western conference action.   I'm excited to see what happens tonight, but I think this one heads to a game seven.

The Thunder sure look dangerous

Kevin Durant had a lousy playoffs last year, but watching him close out games this year, I think the Thunder are presently playing the best basketball in the West, and possibly in the entire playoffs. 

We'll see what happens when they have to defend against a team with a legitimate superstar though.

Final thoughts

Monday?   Really, we have to wait until Monday?

Comments

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  • Watching Durant...I was thinking how Portland would have been if they had Durant instead of Oden. And they have Miller who can distribute better than Westbrook. Portland seems to miss every time they have a chance to draft a "once in a generation" player.

    Whoever it is Atl or Orl, Noah is due to make a better impression. He has struggled against both Horford and Howard. It is time for Noah to come out and make those mis-matches a thing of the past.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I think Noah can definitely improve against Horford, but Howard is a tougher matchup due to his size and strength. Asik and Thomas might perform better in that matchup.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    There you go again Schambuegfan. Won't rest with the Noah bashing or questioning, even after he had a sensational showing in helping the Bulls blow out the Pacers. Why are you so obsessed with Noah? Maybe you are 12 years old, and hated him since he dominated in College where he won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Florida Gators while hammering some team you loved. So the hatred continues! You like the Bulls, but you can't get over your hate of Noah. Am I not right?

    I remember recently you were calling that seven-foot stiff from Georgetown, Roy Hibbert, a major challenge, when the Bulls were leading the Pacers 3-0 in the best of seven series. You were quiet when Noah dominated in the last two games. But you were just being you, A COMPLETE FOOL!
    Now you are worrying about Horford who was completely shut down by Noah and the Bulls, the last time they clashed. There was a good reason Noah beat Horford by a mile in the All-Stars balloting.
    As for Howard, we don't have to worry about him, He's a brute who can't hit free throws. We will do like all the teams have done, including Atlanta. He'll get his points with his bullying tactics, but his team will lose, That's if they survive the listless Atlanta.
    Goodbye Psycho!

  • In reply to Normie:

    Mr.Troll ...I guess you need a psychologist and not any meaningful discussion. Sorry..your posts don't irritate me.

  • In reply to Normie:

    Bulls v. hawks!

  • In reply to pinkizdead:

    Bulls in 5. :)

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    agreed. i just said the same thing to bullseye mark. Their best perimeter defender, hinrich just went down. Out of the following: injured hinrich, jamal crawford, and JJ; none of them can guard derrick rose.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    Let the Dwight Howard sweepstakes begin!
    Orlando lost in embarrassing fashion so he's likely leaving Orlando.

    Bulls would surely like Howard, but would they want to give up Noah for him?

  • In reply to Edward:

    They should give up noah boozer and deng for howard. The real question is would they take back arenas for howard? Would you do howard/arenas for noah boozer?

  • In reply to Edward:

    I still think the Clippers are the right match in terms of what they can offer to make the Magic make a deal, what they have to offer Howard on the court (Gordon/Griffin are good and importantly aren't so good Howard would look like he's taking the soft option playing with them), a big market and the fact it's a warm weather location (allegedly important to Howard).

    Of course Sterling is a problem.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    the blakers aren't trading blake griffin, and a blake howard combo would be redundant.

  • In reply to pinkizdead:

    Redundant all the way to a championship like Robinson/Duncan.

  • In reply to pinkizdead:

    Any chances the league will move the Bulls game up to Saturday, seeing the magic lost?

  • In reply to atique74:

    No, I believe the next game is Monday regardless.

  • In reply to atique74:

    Hey Doug, are you giving away tickets again this year? I want to invite someone I have my eye on since his favorite team is the Bulls but I'm a student and no way do I have that kind of money!!

  • In reply to atique74:

    Via NBA.com:

    "If first-round series are completed in six games or less, the conference semifinals may move up to begin on either Saturday, April 30 or Sunday, May 1."

  • In reply to goldfinger0014:

    Any idea when we will know for sure?

  • In reply to goldfinger0014:

    Oh YEAHHHHH!

    Going to the game Monday, 1st level seats. Hope Rose gets his MVP trophy that night.

  • In reply to goldfinger0014:

    Monday May 2nd is the first game of the Bulls-Hawks series.

  • I guess I don't care if the Bulls face either ATL or ORL. I do hope that the ATL-ORL series goes 7 games, meaning whichever teams wins that series will have to expended tons of physical and emotional energy getting to the second round. Meanwhile the Bulls will be well rested.

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    I'd rather have the Hawks after 6 than the Magic after 7, but Hawks in 7 would be ideal.

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    The Bulls will be well rested going into their series with ATL/ORL and so will Boston and they also get three days in between games two and three. What up with that?

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    It would be better for us to face ATL !! Hawks frontline cant handle our froncourt ! We Will outrebound them easily and most of all boozer wont have hard time against them !! Dont Forget we blew them out twice this season. The only time we lost againt them was because Bulls thought the game was done when they were leading by 20 at the halftime. They wont be tha dumb again Trust me !!

  • In reply to deewaves:

    Only time we lost to the Magic was in Carlos Boozer's first action as a Bull and with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis (both gone) tearing us up.

  • In reply to deewaves:

    Fuck 'em all! Bulls taking down anyone and everyone!

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I guess this guy had nothing else better to say. Bulls don't need this many days off but it will help them with the Nagging injuries that some of the guys have, especially that cream puff Boozer and his popped toe...Seriously??? Hopefully 6 days will be enough time for him to heal cause it usually takes him with a minor injury, 2 weeks, 5 to 7 games in a regular season. I hate that this guy is a major key more than likely for the Bulls to win a championship. Even Pippin don't like his approaches on defense and how he don't even try to rotate to help the team on defense. I hope Taj can continue to come in and get some significant minutes and contiue to help the team like he has been doing. Hopefully ATL.can pull out the win tonight cause Orlando can be a serious problem for the Bulls when they are hitting their threes and it's kind of a bad match for the Bulls because of Howard.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    thank goodness for Taj!

  • In reply to mrbull23:

    yep, no way they can let either Taj or Asik go (if the new CBA allows), too valuable moving forward

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    another great article point by point. I really hope we face Atlanta and then beat the Lakers in the Finals... that will be sweet. If it is against the Thunder it is okay too. But beating the Lakers will be awesome.

  • In reply to mrbull23:

    think you have skipped a stepped, a rather challenging one

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Boston's not that challenging ;)

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    I think it should have been a skipped step but the other way around. If the Bulls beat the winner of Celtics/Heat, whoever comes out of the west(OKC/Lakers) doesn't matter. Chris Paul is making mincemeat out of the Lakers and Rose has to ignite the chucker in Westbrook.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    I'm more worried about Boston and Miami... Hopefully, Boston in 7.

    That would be ideal.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Hopefully Boozer shows up starting in the 2nd round and then we can beat anyone! :-)

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Celtics Heat Sunday!

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Great stuff, Doug...really great stuff.

    You've watched more of the other games than I have, but I too find myself more into the playoffs this season. I think I forgot how much fun it is to have a real shot at the thing.

    Can't really disagree with anything you wrote. Taking it one step at a time, I think both the Magic and Hawks have significant exploitable weaknesses. We're clearly better than either IMO and in a best-of-7 series, the better team almost always wins.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    Horford has been killing the bulls for years..he is the guy I am worried about.....Crawford n Hinrich cannot contain DRose BTW.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    I call BS on the "the Bulls supporting cast played just as bad as the Magic through 4 games, it's all about Rose vs Howard". The difference has nothing to do with players who are closers and everything to do with the supporting cast.

    Orlando minus Howard vs Chicago minus Rose ...

    Game 1:
    18/52 vs 26/59

    Game 2:
    18/66 vs 21/58

    Game 3:
    23/59 vs 24/54

    Game 4:
    22/65 vs 25/60

    The Bulls supporting cast out shot the Magic supporting cast in every game. In fact if Howard's supporting cast shot what Rose's did Magic would have swept the Hawks, if Rose's supporting cast had shot what Howard's did the Pacers would have swept the Bulls.

    The MVP votes are in Doug, and the playoffs don't count towards it, you can stop shilling for Rose at this point. ;)

    I will agree about the Thunder though, with Durant playing at the level everyone thought he would when he was the pre-season MVP favourite they're scary good. So long as Westbrook doesn't go into Starbrook mode again they'll be tough for anyone to beat.

  • In reply to DontLetsStart:

    You just cannot compare stats of the supporting casts against two different teams and draw a judgement. The only judgement we can draw is the eye-test where the Bulls were about to lose in 3/4 games until Rose willed them to wins by taking over. Howard supporting cast has sucked too but we don't know how they would have done in a playoff series unless they play depending on the match-ups of individual guys...ex: Nelson Vs Collison and Nelson Vs Hinrich! Nelson might have dominated Collison and is struggling against Hinrich...we just don't know these things.

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    Blah I had typed a big long reply then the stupid blog software ate it because I got logged out. :(

    I'll just say that my eye test says Deng and Noah gave Rose a crap load more help than all of Howard's team mates combined. The Magic lost the series because their second "best" player in Nelson isn't even clearly better than the guy who he was matched up with, even though Hinrich is only the Hawk's 5th best player on a good day. Hard for one guy to drag his team over the line under such circumstances.

    Also for all his supposed free throw liability Howard has a TS% of 70 in the clutch, this whole idea that he can't be a closer stems from the fact he's coached by a stubborn idiot who wont let him have the ball then even though it's OK for Arenas to jack threes. I mean seriously, if I was Howard I'd leave Orlando just to get away from Van Gundy, as bad as his team mates are the coach might be worse.

  • Yeah, I was also slightly disappointed there wasn't a game over the weekend. But then I put my selfish wishes aside and realized it's better for the team to rest, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, Boozer can have a scavenger hunt to find his confidence. (It's there, Carlos...THERE DAMMIT)

    Doug, you make a good case for the Hawks over the Magic, but I just think the trio of Turkoglu, Richardson, and Arenas are awful and hurt that team over a 7-game series. The Hawks are more athletic and balanced, and if they could elimiate some of their bone-headed play, they, in my mind, have a higher ceiling. Of course, if Howard decides to whack-a-Rose and the MVP goes down, then the Bulls ceiling could become a crawl-space.

  • In reply to zentastic:

    The Hawks really have no advantage on the Bulls though. They don't have any one matchup they can go to.

    The Magic at least have one.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Yes, you make a good point. I think, though, that Howard is the ONLY advantage that Orlando has, and as you said, he isn't effective at the end of games, which is a major problem in these close playoffs contests. The Bulls advantage over the rest of the roster is, I think, MUCH greater than the one Orlando advantage.

    While the Hawks might not be clearly better at any one position, the margin is closer at more positions than Orlando; and they have a greater potential to share the ball amongst those athletic and talented players, such as Horford, Smith, Johnson, and Crawford, where on any given night, one or more of them could put up some really solid numbers, and most importantly, at the end of games.

  • In reply to zentastic:

    Either way, I think the Bulls win in 5 or 6. It's just fun to debate who's the next preferable victim :)

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