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Bulls Vs. Hawks, Game 3: Al Horford, Atlanta Look To Regain Advantage

The Chicago Bulls did what they do best in Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks: they sucked the life right out of ATL's offense, and sucked the hope out of the Hawks' eyes. If Game 1 (which the Hawks won, improbably, in Chicago) was an indictment of Derrick Rose's fitness and the Bulls' postseason poise, Game 2 was a reminder that you don't win 62 games by accident, and that Derrick Rose needs to be in traction to be dismissed.

Rose wasn't efficient in Game 2 -- eight turnovers, more field goal attempts than points -- but he wasn't wildly inefficient, and when Chicago's defense plays as well as it did, choking just about the entire Atlanta attack save for Jeff Teague, "not efficient but not wildly inefficient" gets the job done. The onus is now on Atlanta to figure out how to avoid that ear-splitting offensive disaster again. To figure out how to crack Chicago without, as ATL did in Game 1, betting on Joe Johnson hitting every shot he takes.

That's where Al Horford comes in. In Atlanta's Game 1 victory, Horford was fifth among the Hawks in shot attempts (seven) and finished with nine points and 13 rebounds. Horford got more attempts in Game 2 (12, fourth among the Hawks), but struggled, shooting 3-12 for six points and 14 rebounds. The lack of success is a bit mystifying; in three regular season games against Chicago, Horford averaged 17 points on 62 percent shooting. We know Horford can score on Joakim Noah (his college teammate) and Carlos Boozer; after all, he meets the solitary criteria for being able to score on Carlos Boozer: "having a pulse."

Without Horford, Atlanta can steal wins, probably by watching the Bulls shoot themselves out of contention and watching the Hawks' guards light it up. But if Horford gets going, the Hawks stand a substantially better chance of winning a contested, well-played game against the favored Bulls.

Be sure to check out our Bulls vs. Hawks hub for full series coverage. For more on the Bulls, visit Blog a Bull and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Hawks, visit Peachtree Hoops and SB Nation Atlanta.