Ronnie Brewer, Joe Johnson Face Each Other in Bulls-Hawks NBA Playoff Series

by Tre Baker  on Monday, May. 2, 2011 11:00 am  

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The first game of the NBA East Semifinals Series between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks commences Monday at 7 p.m. Fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks will take note that this will be the first time in recent memory that two former Hogs will face each other in the NBA postseason with Ronnie Brewer on the Bulls side taking the court against Joe Johnson and the Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson played for Arkansas in the waning years of the Nolan Richardson era. Since joining Atlanta, the Hawks have begun to make it a regular habit of getting seeded in the playoffs, something that didn't happen much before Johnson appeared. However, the Hawks have not won a second playoff series since America landed a man on the moon, a factoid that continues to make players and fans alike grimace. Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he's ready to put an end to that losing streak:

“It's definitely embedded in the back of everybody's minds that we haven't advanced past the second round," Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. "And, in the second round, we've pretty much gotten embarrassed."

“It's definitely going to be a change this year,” Johnson said before the team departed for Game 1 at Chicago on Monday. “I can feel it.”

Johnson and Brewer never played together in college, but the Atlanta Hawk will meet an old SEC foe on the court. Bulls guard Keith Bogans will be in Johnson's face tonight, a tradition that began back when Johnson was at Arkansas and Bogans was a Kentucky Wildcat. Bogans reminisced about the old days with the Chicago Tribune:

"I remember those days, when I used to shoot the ball all the time," Bogans said. "We would go back and forth. In particular, I remember the SEC tournament game. I think he ended up with more points, but we won."

Bogans' teammate, guard Ronnie Brewer, enters his first semifinals series of the NBA postseason. Brewer played for three years during the height of the Stan Heath era and has been with Chicago since 2010. Like Johnson, Brewer has also dealt with injuries this season, even losing his starting position.

The demotion hasn't affected Brewer's determination as he has helped lead the Bulls' second team into one of the most formidable back-up squads in the league, even being nicknamed "The Bench Mob". Though the starting line-up for Chicago led the team to its first No. 1 seeding since Michael Jordan left the United Center, the stars are still young and need plenty of help. Brewer told Red Eye Chicago that's where the reserves do their biggest job:

Brewer attributed some of the Bench Mob's effectiveness to pride in wanting to continue the success of the starters.

"We don't want to be the group that when the starters get subbed out we blow the lead or get blown out," Brewer said. "If we're up, we want to push the pedal down and try to make a team give up. ... We really don't like our names in the paper or a lot of praise. We just want to play hard every night at both ends."

As mentioned before, Bogans will be the one assigned to keep Johnson from hitting shots. The Chicago fan site "Pippen Ain't Easy" points out that the Bulls may have better luck with the back-ups. 

A lot of the success against Johnson can and will come from rotations. Bogans is the (arguable) starter but its the guys behind him that tend to make the biggest difference. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer combined for 106 minutes on the court in the three meetings while Bogans had just 58.

But Joe Johnson had 41 points in the season series while Bogans posted just 14. Even with Korver and Brewer combining for 32, Johnson is the clear winner in this matchup. What the Bulls will need to do is do what they do best, play hard nosed defense against the Hawks and contain Johnson.

We won't know whether Johnson nixes the second-round jinx for the Hawks or if Brewer will have his chance at either Boston or Miami. Either way, Razorback fans have a rare opportunity to see two former players in the same series try to become the first Arkansas player to win a ring since Corliss Williamson did with Detroit in 2004.



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