Hawks bracing for Bulls’ best effort in Game 2


May 4

After defying the odds in Game 1 and handing Chicago its first home loss since March 28, the Atlanta Hawks are preparing for what they know is certain to come—a resilient effort from the top-seeded Bulls in Game 2.

“They’re here at home in front of their fans and they’re going to come out even harder,” said Atlanta’s Al Horford of what he anticipates. “I thought they came out hard in Game 1, but I’m sure they’ll be all out tonight.”

Joe Johnson, who led the Hawks in Game 1 with 34 points on 12-of-18 shooting, including five-of-five from behind the arc, agreed.

“I expect a desperate team that knows they have to come out with more energy and effort,” Johnson said. “This is a must win for them. They can’t go to Atlanta down 0-2, so I expect them to come in and give us their best shot.”

Prior to the Hawks’ shootaround at the United Center Wednesday morning, Johnson discussed the team’s minset after stealing home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series.

“We were hungry, knowing that fact that in order to advance, we had to get a game on their court,” said Johnson of Game 1, in which Atlanta jumped out to a 10-point lead at the end of one quarter. “Now that we’ve done that, we can’t be satisfied. We’ve got to keep pushing and move forward. We’ve got to try and be greedy.

“It was big and it does a lot for our confidence,” added Johnson of the 1-0 series lead. “Everyone in this room knows that we can beat any team in this league when we’re clicking on all cylinders. Game 1 was one of those games where everybody was in tune and knew what was going on. We did what we had to do.”

Horford also stressed the importance of another quick start to help eliminate the crowd.

“You can do that and kind of take control of the game,” said Horford. “That’s a position you want to be in on the road.”

It’s a position the Hawks have been in before, as in the opening round of the playoffs, they claimed Game 1 on the road against the Orlando Magic with a 103-93 victory. The next game was another story.

Hawks coach Larry Drew discussed how a degree of complacency may have set in that resulted in a Game 2 defeat at the hands of the Magic, but he’s out to ensure that does not happen again.

“We did not come out with a sense of urgency in Game 2 in Orlando after we had won Game 1,” said Drew. “We had a lot of slippage in that area and I take full responsibility for that trying to get this team ready, not just physically, but mentally. At this stage, you can never be satisfied.

“We discussed this scenario,” added Drew. “It’s Game 2, knowing that the team will come out and play hard and play with energy and effort. We have to match that. We have to be smart with everything we do and we cannot lose our composure under any circumstance. We have to play through all situations and maintain our game plan.”

While Drew and the Hawks insist they won’t be satisfied with securing just one win in Chicago, he is realistic about the focus in which he expects the Bulls to display.

“To come out here and not expect them to give us their best effort is totally ridiculous,” said Drew, who is seeking a consistent, poised performance from his team in Game 2. “We have to be prepared to come out and play 48 minutes.”

If the Bulls are to even up the series, a big effort from Derrick Rose may be necessary. Rose, who will be recognized as the league MVP by NBA commission David Stern prior to Game 2’s tipoff, finished with 24 points and 10 assists in Game 1, but shot only 11-of-27 from the field.

“He probably didn’t have the game that he’s accustomed to,” Drew said of Rose in Game 1. “I like to credit the way we defended him with that. Being MVP, that’s a heck of an accomplishment, and a deserving accomplishment for this kid, as he’s had a phenomenal year. That being said, it cannot change the way we approach this game. We know he is the head of the snake and we have to do a good job with him. As I said before Game 1, we’re not going to stop him. He’s too good. We just have to slow him down the best we can. I thought we did that in Game 1.”

With a strained hamstring keeping starter Kirk Hinrich out of the action, rarely used Jeff Teague was given the assignment of matching up with Rose at point guard. Teague held his own, recording 10 points and five assists in 44 minutes of action.

“I thought I did OK,” said Teague of his performance. “It was big that we got a win. Joe, Jamal [Crawford] and Al played extremely well and we expect the same from them in Game 2. Hopefully they can keep leading us and we continue this streak.”

Teague also contributed to a defensive effort that didn’t allow Rose to get to the free throw line once.

“He’s a tough cover,” Teague said of Rose. “He can drive and shoot, but he missed some shots that he normally makes. Hopefully tonight he misses them again. He’s a great player, though, and you can’t stop a great player from doing what they do. You’ve just got to hope you can frustrate them a little bit.”

Not surprisingly, Drew offered no complaints about the Game 1 officiating and credited his team for containing Rose. He acknowledged keeping Rose off the line was a priority, and challenged his defense to eliminate the gaps and seems to stop dribble penetration, thus preventing Rose from entering the paint.

“As good as this kid is, he still gets in there at times,” acknowledged Drew. “But overall, if we can be consistent with that, it gives us a chance.”

Audio—Hawks coach Larry Drew at Game 2 shootaround (05.04.2011):

What do you think? Leave a comment below: