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Johnson and Hawks want to keep UC crowd quiet
by Adam Fluck
Posted on May 2
Having played the Bulls three times this season, Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks have a fairly good idea of what to expect as their Eastern Conference Semifinals series gets underway in Chicago.
“I’ve seen a team that has been resilient the whole year, a team who plays hard for 48 minutes,” said Johnson while at the United Center Monday morning for the Hawks’ shootaround. “So it’s going to be tough. We know we’re going to be in for a fight this series. We’ve got to come out and do the little things like winning the hustle plays or keeping these guys off the glass, because they’re a very good offensive rebounding team.”
Given that Atlanta had lost six games in a row to close out the regular season, it came as a mild surprise to see the fifth-seeded Hawks upset the fourth-seeded Magic.
“I think really just paying attention to detail,” explained Johnson, who was the Hawks’ leading scorer in the regular season at 18.2 points per game. “Considering the fact that we were playing against an Orlando team that basically embarrassed us last year, a pride factor set in to the point that we wanted to come out and prove to ourselves that we could beat this team.”
Despite playing without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich in Game 1, the Hawks are confident they can steal a game in Chicago to take away home court advantage in the best-of-seven series.
“This is a business trip for us,” stated Johnson. “We’re just trying to come in here get one. If we can get two, great. But we’re going to do whatever it takes to get a win.”
Doing that in Chicago won’t be easy. This year, including the regular season, the Bulls are 39-5 (.886) at the United Center. Their regular season home record of 36-5 was the best in the NBA.
With Tom Thibodeau being honored as NBA Coach of the Year prior to Game 1’s tipoff, emotions will be running high early at the UC. And with Derrick Rose considered the favorite to be named NBA MVP as early as Tuesday, Game 2 might include a similar pregame scene.
Johnson acknowledged that keeping the Chicago fans quiet could be crucial.
“We’ve just got to come out and play our game,” said Johnson. “I think the main thing in order for us to win in this building is we really have to keep the crowd out of it, play hard for 48 minutes and control the tempo.”
Blackhawks still at home off the ice
Though their season ended with a dramatic Game 7 loss in Vancouver last week, at least three members of the Chicago Blackhawks are still hanging around the United Center.
Confirmed to attend Game 1 are Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Christopher Campoli. And not that they’ll need much help feeling right at home, but Jim Cornelison, the Blackhawks’ full-time National Anthem singer, will be on hand to sing just before tipoff.
Bulls vs. Atlanta Hawks miscellaneous notes
Chicago won this year’s season series with Atlanta 2-1; it was the first time since 2006-07 that the Bulls claimed the season series over the Hawks … prior to their 114-81 victory at Philips Arena on March 22, Chicago had dropped its previous six games in Atlanta … the Bulls and Hawks have not met in the playoffs since an Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup in 1997 that Chicago won 4-1 … Chicago has advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2007, while Atlanta advanced for the second straight season … the last two seasons, Atlanta is 0-8 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals (2009: Lost to Miami 4-0, 2010: Lost to Orlando 4-0) … this year, Derrick Rose averaged 25.3 ppg, 9.0 apg and 5.0 rpg in 33.3 mpg … Al Horford paced the Hawks versus Chicago this season with 17.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.00 bpg and 36.7 mpg … since relocating to Atlanta in 1968-69, the Hawks have advanced to the Conference Finals twice (1969: Lost to L.A. Lakers 4-1, 1970: Lost to L.A. Lakers 4-0).