Momentum Shift; Hinrich Doubtful
The Atlanta Hawks, fresh off their surprising first round victory over the heavily favored Orlando Magic, received a devastating below to their starting lineup as they prepare for their second round opponent – the Chicago Bulls.
A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) early Friday afternoon revealed starting point guard Kirk Hinrich suffered a significant strain to his right hamstring and according to head athletic trainer Wally Blasé is now officially listed as doubtful for the Eastern Conference Semifinals versus Chicago.
The injury occurred with just over three minutes remaining in Thursday night’s series-clinching victory over Orlando.
Hinrich spent his first seven seasons as a member of the Bulls and made five trips to the postseason during his tenure in Chicago. Hinrich was expected to play a pivotal role in Atlanta’s defensive scheme aimed at limiting the effectiveness of league MVP candidate Derrick Rose.
Rose averaged 25.3 points, 9.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in three contests versus Atlanta this season. In the Bulls’ first round series victory over the Indiana Pacers the third year guard compiled averages of 27.6 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds.
The absence of Hinrich in the Hawks’ lineup will force rookie head coach Larry Drew to either rely on the services of seldom used second year guard Jeff Teague who played a total of nine minutes in the Orlando series or play high scoring guard Jamal Crawford out of position at point guard.
Although the Bulls were already entering the series as the heavy favorites, the injury to Hinrich shifts the momentum further to the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Since Chicago showed chinks in their respective armor and struggled more than expected versus the eighth seeded Pacers, the Hawks were somewhat emerging as a sleeper pick based on the way they thoroughly handled the Magic.
Now those optimistic thoughts surrounding Atlanta have taken a blow to the gut, while Chicago’s already huge advantage at point guard just became even more lopsided.