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NBA Playoffs: Hawks Horford needs to outplay his college teammate

May 8, 2011, 4:33 PM EDT

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three Getty Images

When they came out of Florida, Al Horford was considered a better prospect than Joakim Noah. And with good reason, Horford has been the better all-around player as a pro — an All-Star with offensive game inside and out plus he is a quality defender (one of the better help rotating bigs around).

But this series, Joakim Noah has outplayed him. And if the Hawks are going to even this series and give themselves a chance to win it, Horford will have to change that.

Noah has pulled down 15 offensive boards over games two and three, and he has 29 boards overall through the two. He has been the most dominant force on the front line and it has swung the series.

The one game the Hawks won they had Joe Johnson hitting shots from in close, beyond the arc, Oak Park and everywhere else the Bulls left him open. They are going to need more of that, they are going to need Horford, they are going to need it all.

The Bulls just need Derrick Rose, whose ankle looks just fine aas he dropped 44 last time out in an epic effort. They also will need some points from Luol Deng and Noah to be Noah.

They shouldn’t expect much from Carlos Boozer, who confirmed that he has torn ligaments around his big toe (an injury commonly called turf toe) that is painful and will continue to slow him down for a while.

The Bulls defense the last couple games has really shut down the Hawks, and it’s hard to see how that is really going to change long-term in this series. The Bulls are the better team. But the Hawks can make it a three-game series with a win, and there they stand a puncher’s chance.

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