After really handling the Hawks for 2 1/2 of the 3 games they played together, are you taking this series seriously, or does this seem like a double digit NCAA seed playing a 1 seed in the Elite Eight?'
It feels more like the latter, to be honest. I hope the Bulls themselves are taking the series more seriously than the fans are. While the Bulls haven't been playing their best thus far in the playoffs, the series-clinching game against Indiana brought back some confidence, and the Hawks just seem like a particularly favorable matchup. They have fewer options than most to slow down Derrick Rose (especially in the wake of Hinrich's injury), and run a slowed-down isolation offense that should play right into the Bulls league-leading defense.
Most are picking Chicago in 5....if it went 7, but the Bulls still won...cause for concern?
I suppose it depends how they look in the games? If we're seeing a pattern of poor play from Rose, or Rose playing well but not getting any help, or if the defense can't handle playoff-caliber opponents as well as they did in the regular season, it'd all be alarming. Ultimately if they advance that's all that matters, and even if they handle the Hawks easily I don't see it changing my opinion of the team that much due to the level of competition. Going into a series against Miami (Boston doesn't scare me nearly as much) would be such a completely different animal, it'll be hard to draw conclusions from this series.
What is the most frustrating habit/weakness of this team?
The non-Rose offense. The Bulls emphasize defense by design, and some of that is because they know Rose can usually give them enough on the other end. But it's frustrating to watch when he becomes literally the only top, second, and third option on a given possession. The purported #2 offensive threat, Carlos Boozer, has been maddeningly terrible throughout the playoffs, and as a whole the Bulls have struggled to score inside and have had to ugly up and squeak out victories behind late heroics from Rose and the stout defense. There's always a worry that such a formula to this degree won't continue to be dependable.
The Bulls are playing the Hawks---otherwise known as the television scourge of the NBA...are you ready for these games to be routinely ignored by the nation at large?
As Chicagoans (legitimate or adopted), we seem to have been born with a chip on our shoulders for being second-class even though in most cases it makes no sense to feel that way. Anyone with a brain will realize that Boston-Miami is a more marquee matchup and should be treated similarly by television. The bonus for playing a team like Atlanta is that we expect to see plenty of Bulls fans at the road games. Maybe not at the round-one level in Indianapolis, but substantial enough.
Scale from 1-100, how bummed are you that Hinrich won't be playing, at least initially, in this series?
I'm a bit bummed to be honest, maybe a 65? I think that even with Hinrich the Hawks wouldn't be that much of a threat, in which case I'd prefer the Bulls get some reps against a more formidable team so the could further sharpen their own games. And I'd like to see Rose thrash Hinrich ... apprentice attempting to destroy his once-master and all that. Plus as someone who usually found himself out of step with how the organization (and fanbase in general) assessed Hinrich, it'd be a bit satisfying to see him humbled at his calling card of defense. All that said, winning a title takes luck too, so I should just consider the Bulls fortunate and be happy about it.
In a vacuum, likely Horford. Clearly I watch more of Noah and am more attached to him, but Horford is a far more complete and versatile player. However that versatility seems to present problems in that it's still an issue in Atlanta as to whether he should be a C of PF. At least with Noah we better know what we're getting. Plus it's hard to replace someone so damned likable, and such a huge part of what the Bulls are as a team in terms of their attitude and commitment. Then again, a better basketball player is usually a pretty good replacement.
Final Call: Prediction?
I see the Bulls maybe slipping up in a game with a high amount of turnovers and the Hawks being able to run out to a lead and hold off a Bulls comeback. They certainly could've lost more than 1 game to Indiana, and for all the dogging I give the Hawks they're better than the Pacers. But Noah improved throughout round one, and there's a hope that there's no way Boozer can be as bad going forward. So Bulls in 5.