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Hawks will have to dig even deeper against Bulls
Injured Hinrich doubtful for series
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ATLANTA — For a team that comes across as emotionally fragile, the Atlanta Hawks sure showed plenty of toughness in the opening round of the playoffs.

They'll have to dig even deeper this time around.

After knocking off Orlando 4-2 — winning three homes games by a total of 10 points — the Hawks are getting ready to face the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bulls won a league-high 62 games during the regular season and they'll have the home-court edge. Game 1 is Monday night in Chicago.

Compounding the challenge for Atlanta: guard Kirk Hinrich went down with a strained right hamstring in the closing minutes of the clincher against the Magic.

Hinrich underwent treatment and an MRI on Friday, which revealed a "significant" strain. He was listed as doubtful for the series, and the Hawks aren't sure about his status should they advance. After collapsing to the court in severe pain, he had to be carried to the locker room by two members of the training staff.

"This certainly changes things," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "He's our starting point guard. Hopefully, he'll be able to go. But if he's not, we'll have to make an adjustment. We don't know what we'll do at that point."

Losing Hinrich would be a tough blow, especially at the defensive end against Chicago star Derrick Rose. The Hawks would likely counter with Joe Johnson, though Drew doesn't want to wear down his best player using him exclusively on Rose.

The Hawks also could hand a bigger role to Jeff Teague, who's played sparingly his first two years in the league but is one of their quicker players. Damien Wilkins is another option.

"We're looking at the matchups against Chicago and seeing what works best for us," Drew said. "But we don't really know if Kirk can go or can't go. Maybe he can play some. Maybe he can't play at all. A lot of that will change things."

Atlanta certainly will have its hands full against Rose, no matter who's guarding him.

"He has the speed. He has the strength. He's really good off the pick and roll," Drew said. "He gets you in the paint at will."

The Bulls know their chances will improve significantly if they don't have to worry about Hinrich's defensive presence in the Atlanta backcourt.

"He's one of the top defenders in the league. I thought that was a big hit for them," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "If he plays, he plays. That's part of it. I would never rule out a guy like that."

The Hawks face all sorts of lineup questions going into this series. Against Orlando star Dwight Howard, they bulked up the frontcourt by starting Jason Collins at center, moving Al Horford to power forward and shifting Josh Smith to small forward.

But the Bulls have a quicker, more flexible frontcourt, so Atlanta will likely go back to the lineup it used most of the season: Horford at center, Smith at power forward, Marvin Williams at small forward.
Collins said he'll be ready for whatever role he's needed in.

"My name could be called at any time," he said. "I've got to be ready to go out there and help this team win."
The Hawks, who were swept in the second round each of the last two years, hope to hang around a little longer this time.

They were an enigmatic bunch during the regular season, becoming the first team with a winning record ever to lose five home games by at least 20 points. But the Hawks looked a lot tougher emotionally in the opening round of the playoffs, other than a 25-point loss at Orlando in Game 5.

Atlanta really had to grind one out Thursday night, shooting just 39 percent from the field but doing all the little things to finish off the Magic. The Hawks were aggressive at the 3-point line, holding Orlando to just 5 of 19, and hustled for 14 offensive rebounds, including a crucial tap-out by Johnson that helped preserve the win.

Drew said his team gets a bad rap because it doesn't have any dominating personalities.

He hopes these playoffs will answer the critics.

"We finished them in six," the coach said. "To me, that takes a pretty strong team. Not only physically having to battle a Dwight Howard and the rest of their team, but mentally being able to endure that. And our guys did it."

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