by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
After making comments about wanting to avoid the “tougher team” in the Miami Heat in the first round, Philly and Chicago square off in Game 1 at high noon (no joke) this Saturday at the United Center. Evan Turner has a slightly one-sided rivalry with Derrick Rose that dates all the way back to when the two were in high school, and although he insisted he meant no disrespect by essentially calling the Bulls out, Turner is on the verge of learning a hard lesson about not providing your opponent with bulletin board material.
That aside, there’s no question the Bulls and Sixers match-up well against one another. Over the past two seasons the two teams have split their head-to-head matchups, 3-3. Chicago went 2-1 against the Sixers this season and actually won a game on Philadelphia’s home floor without Derrick Rose.
Of course the health of DRose is on the minds of everyone these days. The Bulls have been able to win with him on the sidelines during the regular season, but they don’t give trophies for that.
So is DRose healthy, or isn’t he? That’s the only thing people want to know—not just in this series, but throughout the Playoffs. We find out starting tomorrow.
Rose has missed 26 games this season with turf toe, a bad back, a pulled groin and a sprained ankle. He’s still trying to round himself back into shape and going up against Holiday should be a good test for him. Jrue has emerged as the PG of the future in Philly and he’s played well all season long, missing just one game in the 66-game condensed NBA schedule. The advantage here still goes to the Bulls, however. DRose may not be 100 percent, but even if he’s at 85 percent, that should still be enough to win the head-to-head matchup with Holiday in this series.
Hamilton, like Rose has also missed a bulk of the season due to injury, but he’s looked much improved in Chicago’s last few regular-season games and appears to have his Playoff legs ready. Turner, since being placed in the starting lineup by Doug Collins, has played remarkably well and one would think his youth and activity is what gives him the edge in this matchup. But don’t count out Rip. He’s a wily veteran than knows all the tricks of the trade and, with the way Chicago runs him off multiple screens in their offense, that’s going to take a lot out of Turner. Especially if Hamilton is healthy.
Both Deng and Iguodala are coming off solid campaigns where both were named All-Stars for the first time in their careers. Head-to-head this season, neither player has really gotten the best of the other, and that’s pretty much the way it’s been throughout their careers. Iguodala obviously has the edge athletically both in transition and on defense, but Deng counters with being very skilled in the half-court offensively, and he’s one of the NBA’s best defenders in his own right. No clear edge here.
Carlos Boozer rebounded from his disaster of a season last year and was really the only mainstay in Tom Thibodeau’s starting lineup during the regular season. He started all 66 games this year, and although his per game averages across the board are down, he was definitely solid for the Bulls this year. Brand, on the other hand, had a very quiet and unassuming season in Philly this year. His scoring dipped 4 points per game since last season, and although he’s still solid, he’s not the player he once was. Carlos Boozer has clear advantage over Brand in this matchup.
Spencer Hawes is the most logical to start at center for the Sixers in this series. Hawes is certainly the better matchup with Noah because of his ability to score and rebound the ball. But there’s no question Joakim is the better of the two players. His energy around the basket combined with his passing ability gives him the edge, and he shouldn’t have a problem outplaying Hawes in this series.
Bench: Bulls vs Sixers
Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young are the Sixers’ best two players off the bench. And on most nights, against most teams during the Playoffs where rotations are shorter, their combined play would be enough to win a few games. But Thibodeau has the luxury of going 10-deep off the bench with CJ Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. That’s as short as it gets.
Prediction: Philadelphia can legitimately win two games in this series, especially if Derrick Rose isn’t able to perform at a high level. But if he is able to play up to DRose basketball and if Hamilton can find his rhythm early in the series, combined with bench play and team defense, this series could go five games. But credit goes to Philly for playing hard on the defensive end as well. The Sixers should be able to win a game and steal one in this series, but the Bulls will still be able to come out on top.
Bulls win 4-2.