Bulls-Hawks Preview and NFL Schedule Notes

THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT - CAN THE BULLS TONIGHT PUT A WRAP ON THE VERY PESKY HAWKS?

PLUS THERE'S MORE 2011 NFL SCHEDULE NOTES AS WE EXAMINE WHAT'S AHEAD FOR JACKSONVILLE, SAN FRANCISCO & BALTIMORE

By Jim Hurley:

You tell us:

Is it really 13 years since the last time the Chicago Bulls were playing in the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals?

Shades of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman - you do remember those folks, right? - but you do have to go all the way back to the spring of 1998 to find the last time the Bulls were part of a conference finals and now here's the 2010-11 team just one mere win away from getting into that sacred round of play.

Meanwhile, it hasn't exactly been a walk-in-the-park to get here.

As handicappers are well aware, this Bulls bunch has split its 10 pointspread decisions this post-season (Chicago covered just two of its five games against Philadelphia in an opening-round series while covering 3-of-5 thus far in this semifinal round against the Atlanta Hawks) and this playoff run has been more of a grind than anything else for NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and his MVP/megastar player Derrick Rose.

In a nothing-comes-easy post-season, now the Bulls bring their act down South again for tonight's Game #6 clash in Atlanta and - while everyone wonders how many shots Rose will hurl up here (he's coming off an 11-of-24 field-goal game for a game-high 33 points) one other question worth asking here is this:

If Rose is gonna have a real scoring sidekick in Game #6, than who is it gonna be ... Carlos Boozer (just 11 points in Game #5) or perhaps key reserve Taj Gibson who drained all five of his shots in an 11-point game with all of the damage done in the final quarter of play.

We'll get to the Bulls and their quest to wrap up this playoff series but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and all the Major-League Baseball winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you go online right here. Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball games; after 1 p.m. ET for all the NBA and MLB weeknight games; and, of course, anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

THE NBA PLAYOFFS - IT'S BULLS-HAWKS IN GAME #6

Here's what is on tonight's hoops menu ...

EASTERN CONFERENCE - CHICAGO at ATLANTA - Bulls lead series 3-2
The stats don't lie and they say the Hawks have won/covered four-of-five post-season home games this spring including all three against the Orlando Magic back in Round I action but the only way that Larry Drew's club stays alive this season is if they do the following:

First off, the Hawks must expend major energy/man-power on bodying the aforementioned Rose who is still getting to the hoop way too easily (or didn't you witness a couple of those late-game layups?) and they must make Rose turn the ball over some here. It's hard to believe - and yet another credit for the league MVP - that he committed just two turnovers while chipping in 9 assists in Tuesday's win at the United Center and so the Hawks must get him to cough up the "pumpkin" here ... or else;

Secondly, Atlanta cannot - and there are no ifs, ands or buts about it - get to a Game #7 unless scoring stars Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford have big-time showings here. Note that the Johnson/Crawford tandem combined for a mere 17 points in Game #5 (yes, Crawford shot just 1-of-9 from the field for two points while playing 27 minutes) and gut feeling here is this twosome needs to score a minimum of 45 points if the Hawks wish to stay alive;

Finally, Chicago probably cannot win here without some better three-point shooting - the Bulls drained just 4-of-14 trifectas in Game #5 with Rose and Luol Deng combining for a lousy 1-of-9 night from distance - and so either Keith Bogans (who nailed three triples on Tuesday night) and/or reserve Kyle Korver must keep the Atlanta defense "honest" here while also taking some heat off Rose.

Note that in the three games the Bulls have won in this here-and-now series they've surrendered just 73, 82 and 83 points. In the two games the Hawks won they scored 103 and 100 points - 'nuff said! And now you know why every TNT/ESPN reporter that chats up Rose after games finds out all he ever preaches is "defense"!

Here's the game-by-game look of Bulls-Hawks thus far with home teams in CAPS:

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

5-2

CHICAGO

- 9

Atlanta 103-95

5-4

CHICAGO

- 8.5

CHICAGO 86-73

5-6

Chicago

- 2.5

Chicago 99-82

5-8

Chicago

- 3.5

ATLANTA 100-88

5-10

CHICAGO

- 8.5

CHICAGO 95-83

 

NFL 2011 SCHEDULE NOTES: LET'S SEE WHAT'S IN STORE FOR THE JAGUARS, 49ERS & RAVENS

In our continuing look at NFL teams and their 2011 schedules, here's what is straight ahead for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens:

JACKSONVILLE - There are a couple of oddities to the Jaguars' sked this season including the fact that this AFC South club doesn't play a single home game during one four-week, mid-season stretch (see road games at Houston, Indianapolis and Cleveland with a bye tossed into the mix in Week 9). In other words, the 'Ville must "make hay" in late November/early December when the Jags play back-to-back-to-back home games against Houston, San Diego and Tampa Bay. Note that Jacksonville also plays non-divisional home games against New Orleans and Baltimore - tall tasks indeed. In all, Jacksonville plays nine teams that sported winning records a year ago.

SAN FRANCISCO - It's always worth checking out the "opposite coast" games played by teams in the East/West divisions and here's a case where the 49ers will play five games in the Eastern time zone from Sept. 25th through Nov. 24th (road tilts in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington and Baltimore) and thus lends the question what will be in the Niners' collective tank late in the year with season-ending NFC West road games in Seattle and St. Louis? The 49ers will enjoy a Week 7 bye and than follow that up with an Oct. 30th home game against Cleveland and so this will provide some time to heal up some mid-season bumps and bruises. Best non-NFC West to look forward to with San Fran? Try the Week 2 home game against the Dallas Cowboys as it's possible the Niners could get out of the gates quickly (they also play a Week 1 home game against Seattle). Jim Harbaugh's club does play the 30th toughest schedule in the NFL meaning that only two teams play softer skeds - hey, finally some good news for the fans in Frisco!
 
BALTIMORE - All the talk with the Ravens is that for this franchise to get to its first Super Bowl since the 2000 season, they must play one or two playoff home games and so the real goal here is 13 wins (or one more than last year) and that might be accomplished because the non-AFC North road tilts aren't terribly tough: At Tennessee, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego (could see three and maybe even four road wins here, right?). Note that Baltimore gets its bye in Week 5 following a Sunday Night home clash against the New York Jets but the remainder of the home card isn't awful with tilts against Houston, Arizona, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Cleveland. Okay, so now you're not at all surprised that the Ravens are playing the next-to-easiest schedule in the NFL (this year's foes were a crummy 117-139 overall last year).

NOTE: There's more NBA Playoff action in the next edition of Jim Sez plus keep an eye peeled for our MLB Reports too along with more NFL 2011 Schedule News & Notes!

21
Aug

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