Bulls Vs. Hawks Predictions: Loss Of Kirk Hinrich, Matchup Issues Doom Hawks

This Bulls vs. Hawks series might get ugly. I'm sensing a sweep might be possible.

The nice thing about the way the Hawks were built this year is that they were tailor made to take out the Orlando Magic, so long as they actually started Jason Collins as the Dwight Howard-stopper. In the last round, Atlanta wore down Howard using Collins and their surplus of anonymous centers, then exploited their huge matchup advantages all over the rest of the floor, particularly at the forward spots. That's why they won. 

The problem? The Chicago Bulls, with their surplus of better big men and the presence of Derrick Rose dancing around the defense, were also built to beat a team like the Magic. The difference is that the Bulls are much better, and therefore, I don't see this series being close.

The loss of Kirk Hinrich to injury stings, because he could at least do a decent job of sort of keeping Rose in front of him. Now, the task falls to Jeff Teague, who is young and inexperienced, or worse, Jamal Crawford, who doesn't play any defense. It'll be tempting for Larry Drew to put Crawford and Joe Johnson on the floor at the same time after Crawford's big series against the Magic, but the Hawks would be porous defensively with that lineup. The ideal situation would have been to play Johnson at small forward for long stretches with Hinrich (on Rose) and Crawford (hidden on whoever was out there at shooting guard), but Hinrich's injury probably ices that. This means that Atlanta will have to suffer a trade-off no matter how they structure their backcourt rotation. 

Up front, Atlanta won't see the same advantages they usually have when they trot out Josh Smith and Al Horford. Carlos Boozer's health struggles may actually be a blessing in disguise for the Bulls, because they'll need Taj Gibson's defense to lessen Smith's overall impact. Stopping Horford may be a bigger challenge, but with all the other matchup advantages on the perimeter, the Bulls will live with that.

Ultimately, this is a bounce-back series for the Bulls. Chicago's offense didn't fare well against Indiana, but the Hawks don't have the Pacers' depth inside. Chicago's defense should dominate a Hawks offense that was able to neutralize Howard's effect by posting up Smith and Horford against smaller guys. Atlanta won't be able to do that this series, and a good portion of their offense will go up in smokes. Bulls in 4.

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