Cavs/Bulls Series Preview
Can the Bulls really shock the world? We’re about to find out.
by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
It’s hard to believe that at one point not too long ago, I was actually planning on spending a couple of days in Milwaukee watching the Bucks play during the Playoffs. I mean come on, what team makes the Playoffs going almost a whole month without winning a game?
Da Bulls, that’s who.
While LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers once again ran through the regular season-finishing with the best record in the League for the second straight year, it took a bold prediction by Derrick Rose, a fight between the head coach and the GM, and a broken face to get the Bulls to get into the Playoffs for a chance to get swept by “The LeBrons” as some people have said will happen. But not so fast…
I think we may see another series like the one against the Celtics last year. The Bulls didn’t win that one either, but it went down as one of the best opening round series ever.
Like the Celtics, the Bulls don’t particularly care for the Cavaliers. Specifically, Joakim Noah doesn’t particularly care for LeBron James and all that damn dancing. That right there is enough to make this series just as exciting as the Lakers/Thunder, the other series everyone is so amped about.
POINT GUARD: MO WILLIAMS VS. DERRICK ROSE
It’s really hard for me to not give Derrick Rose the advantage in this matchup. He’s clearly better than Mo Williams–and Delonte West and Boobie Gibson and Sebastian Telfair–and he’ll be able to score on him whenever he wants, but within the Cleveland offense, Mo Williams can get hot and go off at any time and that will spell trouble for DRose.
Defensively, Mo won’t be able to stop Derrick from going to the basket at will and knocking down his floater or keep him from getting his mid-range jumper off, but Derrick won’t be able to stop Mo from coming off those screens and knocking down those long bombs, or keep him from getting the ball to LeBron James. Which by the way is better than anything else he can do on the basketball court.
SHOOTING GUARD: ANTHONY PARKER VS. KIRK HINRICH
This will be the most important matchup throughout the entire series. Primarily because it’s one of the only real advantages the Bulls have against the Cavaliers. Kirk Hinrich has to play well if the Bulls are going to have any chance to compete, but he’s been inconsistent all season long. He’s a player who feeds off of his jumper. When his outside shot is falling, it gets his confidence up and all of a sudden he becomes very hard to deal with. But when it’s not, he disappears and shrinks and you forget he’s even out there. That’s not the Kirk Hinrich the Bulls need to show up.
The Cavs are hoping Anthony Parker’s length on defense will make it tough on Kirk to get going in the series. That and knocking down the occasional open shot are about all the Cavs are expecting from him anyway.
SMALL FORWARD: LeBRON JAMES VS. LUOL DENG
A healthy Luol Deng has been known to play LeBron James tough. But a matchup between a Luol Deng still recovering from a calf injury against a well rested LeBron James? Well, that’s going to make for one of the most lopsided one-on-one matchups you’ll see in the entire Playoffs. Lu had been having a great season until he went down to injury like it seemed everybody else did for the Bulls in March, but unlike his other injured teammates, he has yet to recover. That being said, however, many games this series goes, it’s going to be a long one for Luol Deng.
LeBron James. MVP. The King… Of Akron. The man who could lead the League in scoring every year if he wanted to. Him. Chicago will have no answer for Bron Bron. None whatsoever. He’s going to be able to do whatever he wants to out there and he’ll encounter little resistance from anyone on the Bulls. Not to say they won’t try to stop him, because they will. They just won’t be able to.
Advantage: Not Luol (or anybody else on the Bulls, either)
POWER FORWARD: ANTAWN JAMISON VS. TAJ GIBSON
Antawn Jamison was brought to Cleveland to help win a championship this season. His blended inside/outside game was thought to be the perfect compliment to play alongside LeBron and we’ll get to see first hand if it’ll result in the Cavs being the last team standing come June. The key concern for Jamison is his still injured right shoulder. As long as he holds up though, the Cavs have a legit shot at winning the whole thing.
Taj Gibson has had a very impressive rookie season. Not much was expected of him at the beginning of the year, but when Tyrus Thomas went out with a broken arm, he stepped right in and filled the void masterfully. But let’s remember, he’s still a rookie. And this is the NBA Playoffs. Going head-to-head against a veteran like Jamison on the biggest stage of his basketball career might be asking a lot.
CENTER: SHAQUILLE O’NEAL VS. JOAKIM NOAH
Joakim Noah has had a great season despite a tough stretch trying to fight through plantar fasciitis. He’s the unquestionable emotional leader of this team and when guys need to get fired up, they need look no further than him for motivation. He’s definitely going to be the guy who makes sure the team comes ready to play every night and his emotion and energy on the glass as well as on the defensive end of the floor will assure that this will be an entertaining and fun series to watch. Especially if he and Bron get into it again.
Shaq is back, he’s rested, and he’s ready to go. Joakim Noah once described guarding him as pushing up against a wall as hard as you can and the wall still doesn’t move. The Big Everything is on a mission to help LeBron get a title and get ring number five for himself which would give him one more than Kobe. Yeah, that’s still a big deal to him.
BENCH: CAVS VS. BULLS
JJ Hickson, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, Jamario Moon, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are much better subs than Brad Miller, Flip Murray, Jannero Pargo, Hakim Warrick and James Johnson.
COACHING: MIKE BROWN VS. VINNY DEL NEGRO
I’m not a big Mike Brown fan. I don’t think he’s a great coach or even a good coach. I just think he enjoys a luxury that a lot of other coaches don’t have and that’s LeBron James. He makes Brown look a lot better than he really is. But when you have arguably the best player in the game who’s about to win his second straight MVP award, and you finish with the best record in the NBA for the second straight season, the advantage has to go to him. Right?
Meanwhile, Vinny Del Negro is not a great coach. Hell, he’s not even a good coach. But for some reason, he seems to be getting a lot of sympathy around the League for the situation he’s in right now with the Bulls and I don’t really understand it. The team hasn’t gotten any better–finishing .500 for the second straight season–and has once again barely made it into the post-season. A lot of people talk about the injuries the team has suffered, but when Joakim Noah went down for almost a month and the Bulls lost 10-straight games, who’s fault was that? Yep, you guessed it. VDN. He’s a good guy and all, but he gets no sympathy from me.
I’m not one of those people who believe the Cavs are unbeatable. I’ve already seen them dominate a regular season only to fall short in the Playoffs when everything is on the line. A lot of people don’t believe we’ll see a repeat of last year, but I’m not so sure about that.
Can the Bulls beat the Cavs? Probably not. Will it be a sweep? Absolutely not. The animosity between these teams is just way too intense for the Bulls not to be able to win at least a game or two.
That being said…
Cavs in Six.