Sam Amick
Saturday April 30th, 2011

It's not as if Kirk Hinrich was about to become the Derrick Rose stopper.

But the Atlanta point guard had a better chance of slowing Chicago's likely MVP than any of his Hawks brethren, as his resume has always included the part about being a strong perimeter defender. Then came Friday's MRI results, with Hinrich being deemed "questionable" for the series because of a significant strain to his right hamstring. Enter Jeff Teague, the second-year player who logged a total of nine minutes in Atlanta's first-round series victory over Orlando.

Nothing like going for the head of the snake with a butter knife.

A series that already looked like a long shot for the Hawks is looking even more daunting now, as the rested Rose should be able to roam free and the Bulls will look to continue their impressive run. Including the five-game series win over Indiana, Chicago has won 32 of its last 37 games. By comparison, the Hawks -- who were certainly impressive in ousting Orlando in six games in their first-round matchup -- found flight at the right time after losing 20 of their final 31 regular season games.

KEY MATCHUP

Carlos Boozer vs. Al Horford. Even before Boozer's turf toe put his status in question, he was having a hard time with Horford. The Atlanta power forward scored a career-high 31 points while holding Boozer to 11 in their first matchup this season that was won by the Hawks (83-80 on March 2). When Boozer missed the second meeting with the Hawks (a 94-76 Chicago win) because of an ankle injury, Horford was held to just six points by the front line of Kurt Thomas and Joakim Noah. The third and final meeting (a 114-81 meeting, won by the Bulls) went to Horford again on the individual front (14 points on 6-of-7 shooting to Boozer's six points on 3-of-8 from the field). Boozer missed practice on Friday because of turf toe and it is unclear whether he will play in Game 1 on Monday at the United Center.

X-FACTORS

Derrick Rose. Rose's first-round performance did nothing to end the debate about his worth between the stat-heads and the old-school basketball minds, as a few of his individual numbers (37.1 percent shooting, 21.6 percent from three-point range) were simply not good enough while the end result on the team front was. Especially considering the edge he should have with Hinrich out, Rose needs to hone his game for the second round.

Joe Johnson. The $124-million man has a chance here to change the minds of so many who thought he was the most overpaid free agent of last summer, but the Hawks need him to be consistent in ways he just wasn't in the first round. In the four Atlanta wins, Johnson averaged 22.3 points on 43 percent shooting. In the two losses, he averaged 9.5 points on 29.6 percent shooting. He averaged just 13.6 points in three games against the Bulls during the regular season on 39.1 percent shooting.

BOTTOM LINE

The Bulls might be sending the Pacers a thank-you gift by the time this series is over, as their feisty, fiery ways were the perfect primer for what the Hawks will bring. Atlanta has ramped up its defense significantly in the postseason thus far, but Chicago should be able to counter with its own defensive prowess while showcasing D-Rose on the other end. The Bulls will find a new gear and the Hawks will find themselves heading home. Bulls in 6.

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