The Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls look to take control of their second-round series as the scene shifts to Georgia on Friday night.
The Don Best odds screen has Chicago as 2 ½-point road favorites with a total of 178 points. ESPN will tip-off its doubleheader coverage at 4:00 p.m. (PT) with the L.A. Lakers at Dallas following.
The Hawks surprised everyone in Monday’s Game 1 opener, a 103-95 win as 9 ½-point underdogs. They were supposed to be devastated by the loss of point guard Kirk Hinrich, but the unheralded Jeff Teague started in his place and acquitted himself nicely, especially guarding Derrick Rose. Joe Johnson led Atlanta with 34 points.
Game 2 on Wednesday was a must-win for the Bulls and they responded with an 86-73 triumph, ‘covering’ the lofty nine-point spread. Both teams shot less than 40 percent from the floor and Chicago was able to hold off a late Atlanta run that cut the lead to six (77-71) with four minutes remaining.
The measly 159 combined points scored went way ‘under’ the 180 ½-point total. The 198 points in Game 1 went way ‘over’ the 177 ½-point number.
It was just the third Chicago ‘cover’ in the playoffs in seven games after struggling with Indiana. Atlanta dropped to a still-impressive 6-2 against the spread after its opening series with Orlando.
Injuries have been a big part of this series – for both teams. Hinrich (hamstring) is likely out the whole series and Teague has been a godsend, scoring a team-high 21 points last game. His emergence has allowed coach Larry Drew to keep Jamal Crawford in his sixth-man role. Crawford scored just 11 points last game, but he’s usually instant-offense off the bench.
Chicago’s power forward Carlos Boozer (turf toe) is listed as probable Friday. He’s clearly less than 100 percent at 11 PPG this series. League MVP Rose has hurt his ankle twice already in the playoffs and is just 21-of-54 (38.9 percent) from the floor this series, although scoring 24.5 PPG. He also committed eight turnovers last game.
The Bulls’ offense definitely takes a big hit with both Rose and Boozer hurting. Luol Deng is a quality scorer and he’s averaging 17.5 PPG this series. Joakim Noah is good for some hustle points, but there’s no one else who can be relied upon.
Atlanta’s offense has suffered a power outage up front. Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford are the starters, but they’ve combined for just 45 total points in the two games. That puts way too much pressure on the backcourt, especially with the Cinderella Teague ready to turn back into a pumpkin at any moment.
This is essentially a six-man rotation for Atlanta right now with big men Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins getting few minutes. Drew doesn’t like the matchup of his burly reserves against the quicker Chicago big men. The Hawks need to stay out of foul trouble and avoid any more injuries in this series or they could be in trouble.
The Hawks now return home where they were 24-17 SU and 16-25 ATS during the regular season. They were 3-0 SU and ATS at home against Orlando in the first round, winning all three games by four points or less as exactly 1 ½-point ‘dogs.
The ‘under’ went 3-0 in those games and is 8-0 in Atlanta’s last eight home games overall.
The Bulls were a very good road team during the regular season (26-15 SU and 25-16 ATS). They went 1-1 SU and ATS in the two games in Indiana, with the ‘under’ going 2-0.
The two clubs will take Saturday off before reconvening at Philips Arena for Game 4 on Sunday. TNT has that prime-time telecast starting at 5:00 p.m. (PT).