Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls will face their biggest test on Tuesday night when they face the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of their 2011 NBA Playoffs second-round series. The Bulls and Hawks are tied at two in the best-of-seven series, and the winner will have the upper hand in the battle to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is the first real adversity the Bulls have faced in the playoffs. Sure, they struggled with Indiana in every game, but at the end of the day, they never trailed in the series and took a 3-0 lead. Sure, they lost Game 1 to Atlanta, but there was still a lot of series left to be played. Now, though, they are in a legitimate dogfight, and the series hangs in the balance.
All this is thanks to the Hawks winning Game 4, 100-88, on Sunday night. After a subpar effort in Game 3, the Hawks really brought it, and they forced Rose to beat him all by himself. Rose nearly did it, but 34 shots later, he couldn't get it done. Rose received a lot of criticism for taking so many shots, but most of his attempts were around the basket. The Hawks deserve credit for defending him well and simultaneously taking his teammates out of the game.
The Hawks must now duplicate that effort in Game 5, which is not something they do well. The leading producer for them in Game 4 was Josh Smith, and if there is anything we know about Smith, it's that he struggles to consistently play to his strengths. Then again, few even expected the Hawks to get this far after they finished just 44-38 in the regular season, but here they are. To channel Kevin Garnett for a second, anything is possible.