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2011 NBA Playoffs: Bulls and Hawks Face Off in Tie-Breaking Game Five

It’s been a season of consistency for Chicago. That is, until they got to the playoffs. Ever since the Bulls took the court in game one of the Indiana series, something has been way off and they have been unimpressive compared to the way they had played the first 82 games of the season.

One reason the Bulls have struggled so much is because they are so inconsistent offensively. They have had problems turning the ball over as well as simply hitting shots, and in the three games they have lost (6-3 so far in the playoffs), they have been absolutely terrible offensively. This is a team that clearly relies on the limbs of MVP Derrick Rose, which makes sense, otherwise he wouldn’t be the league MVP.

Rose is one of the toughest players in the league, but both he and Carlos Boozer have been dinged up. Joakim Noah also was dinged at the start of the playoffs, so the Bulls have really not had a fully healthy compliment of players up to this point. They seem to be running on fumes at times, but when they are on, boy can they make teams look silly.

That has been the case for two of their four games against the Hawks, but the Hawks have stood their ground. While home court is still in the Bulls’ favor, Atlanta came in game one and showed the Bulls they are not afraid to grit their teeth and grind out a victory on the road.

Atlanta is a team that is capable of big things, especially with their scoring prowess off the bench. Jeff Teague has been a huge spark of energy for these guys, and in their two wins, Joe Johnson has been white hot from the field. The Bulls have done a good job of playing defense on this guy, but they really need to step it up in game five if they are going to take a 3-2 series lead back to Atlanta.

Both teams have good things going for them, and both have depth on the bench, which is why this is such an even keeled series. I think the Bulls know how important this game five is at home, and they are the best home team in the NBA, only losing there six times all season long. The Bulls have the best closer in the game, and probably the best defensive team left in the playoffs. I think Tuesday night’s game is a statement game for the Bulls, though fans will take any type of win they can get.

For the Hawks, the key is going to be limiting the Bulls’ outside shooting like they did in games one and four. Not only that, but the Hawks have to be efficient offensively, because the Bulls love to play those close, low scoring games, because their defense is so stout. I thought Chicago would take this series in five or six, so I’ll stick to that prediction and say the Bulls string together two in a row.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.