With the league's best record and a 2-1 advantage in the head-to-head series, the Chicago Bulls should have little trouble dispatching the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, especially due to the absence of Hawks point guard Kirk Hinrich, who strained his right hamstring in the previous round and likely will not appear in this series. But as the Pacers illustrated in the first round, if the Bulls do have a defensive weakness, it's at power forward, where Carlos Boozer's inability to defend the pick-and-roll proves problematic.
Boozer is a willing defender who tries hard and gives an honest effort; watch him as he bellows to his teammates on that end of the floor, informing them of incoming screens and cutters. Where he needs work is in his own positioning, as oftentimes he neither effectively hedges against the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll nor recovers in time to cut off the pass back to his man. The same is true in pick-and-pop action, where the Pacers exploited Boozer's poor awareness and lack of footspeed time and again to free his counterpart, Tyler Hansbrough, for open jumpers.
Boozer will find himself matched up against Atlanta's Al Horford, a two-time All-Star, in this series. Among the skills making Horford one of the league's most well-rounded bigs? His ability to can open long twos off the catch, the same sort of look the Pacers created for Hansbrough in the first round. Indeed, according to the stat-tracking service Synergy Sports Technology, Horford posted the league's best field-goal percentage on jump shots taken between 17 feet and the three-point line (53.3 percent) this season. Moreover, he ranked seventh in the league in total shot attempts from that distance. He's a high-volume, high-efficiency shooter from a spot where his matchup is vulnerable defensively. The Bulls have got to be careful with him.
Of course, the Bulls stand as the league's best defense, thanks to coach Tom Thibodeau's attention to detail and his players' individual defensive efforts. But the Hawks defend Horford pretty well too, with the likes of Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith often getting more offensive chances than Horford.