Chicago Bulls: 5 Teams the Bulls Would Hate to See in the NBA Playoffs
The Chicago Bulls will definitely make the playoffs as they have a solid 27-8 record even after suffering through tons of injuries.
The Bulls won a league-high 62 games last year and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This year, Chicago seems more focused than ever, but there are still some teams that would provide difficult playoff matchups.
Here are the five teams the Bulls would hate to face in the playoffs.
New York Knicks
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While the New York Knicks have struggled to a 17-18 record, they have been playing a heck of a lot better of late.
The resurgence could be pointed to sensational second-year point guard Jeremy Lin, who led the Knicks to a 7-0 record with stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire missing most of those games.
Lin has averaged 22.6 points, 8.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds on 47.8 percent shooting during the last 12 games. His stats don't tell the whole picture as Lin has made coach Mike D'Antoni's offense function well.
Besides Lin, the Knicks have a tremendously loaded frontcourt with Anthony, Stoudemire and former Bull Tyson Chandler. This trio is clearly better talent-wise to the Bulls' Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
Anthony is one of the NBA's purest scorers who is having a down year, but is still collecting 21.4 points a night. He is someone who would give Deng some assignment problems.
Stoudemire is a solid post scorer who will overmatch weak post defender Boozer all night.
Chandler is a great defender who could post a double-double, thus cancelling out Noah's production.
This doesn't count the Knicks other players, as point guard Iman Shumpert and recently signed J.R. Smith provide New York with a solid bench.
The Knicks' newfound star power and deep frontcourt would give the Bulls fits and can upset Chicago if they are clicking on all cylinders.
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Is it just me, or are the Indiana Pacers playing much better from last year?
The Pacers improved their depth tremendously by trading for top reserve shooting guard George Hill and signing All-Star power forward David West. This has allowed them to storm to a 21-12 All-Star break mark, good for third best in the East.
Besides those two signings, Pacers center Roy Hibbert is playing like a monster. The 7'2" Georgetown product is contributing on both sides of the court. He is collecting 13.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game on 51.2 percent shooting.
West's acquisition allowed Tyler Hansbrough to shift to the bench, where he is more suited.
In last year's first-round playoff series, the Chicago Bulls struggled in a very physical contest. The Pacers clogged the driving lanes and hit Bulls' star Derrick Rose with rough fouls.
The frontcourt of Hibbert, Hansbrough and reserve Jeff Foster will make for another violent series. Hibbert will take advantage on rotating to Carlos Boozer for easy baskets. Plus, Noah will have to work against a tough post presence in West.
This doesn't even count Indiana wanting revenge for last year's playoff bounce.
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To round out the East, the Chicago Bulls' biggest challenge would be the mighty Miami Heat, who bounced them in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat (27-7) are even better from last year. Norris Cole and Shane Battier provide more depth and sharpshooter Mike Miller is healthy.
LeBron James has been playing some inspired basketball, averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists a game. James tattooed the Bulls defense for 35 points, 11 boards and five dimes in January.
Dwayne Wade has been injured on and off, but he is gelling better with James and Chris Bosh.
Meanwhile, Bosh is playing stronger in the post and reminding everyone around the NBA why he was such a force in Toronto. Bosh should have no trouble dominating Carlos Boozer in the post.
The Heat beat the Bulls in a tight 97-93 affair with Chicago playing poorly down, not much different from last May.
Richard Hamilton was supposed to be the difference maker for the Bulls, but the savvy veteran is unavailable health-wise more than not.
If Hamilton isn't ready to go, Wade will draw reserve Ronnie Brewer as a defensive assignment. Brewer is a nice hustler, but he can't score like Hamilton could.
The Heat are world beaters right now, and don't expect that to change come playoff time.
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If the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks meet up in the NBA Finals, the defending champs would be a tough opponent.
Mavericks star power forward Dirk Nowitzki is playing better of late and has led Dallas to a 21-13 record after a slow start. Nowitzki dominated last year's playoffs by averaging 27.7 points and 8.2 rebounds with four game-winning shots.
Nowitzki can score both inside and out, making him a tough draw for both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. If Noah switches off on Nowitzki on the perimeter, Boozer is left guarding the post. This would allow either Delonte West or Vince Carter to cut to the basket.
West was a shrewd acquisition for the Mavs, as the veteran point guard has been effective as he platoons with aging great Jason Kidd.
Shooting guard Jason Terry is still a deadly shooter off the bench and small forward Shawn Marion has the length and defensive prowess to slow down Luol Deng.
Newcomers Carter and Lamar Odom haven't played their best basketball in 2012, but they both have vast playoff experience.
The Mavericks were underdogs last year and are again this season. However, Dallas did win last year and know how to win as a team.
Oklahoma City Thunder
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Another NBA Finals opponent even more intimating than the Dallas Mavericks would be the athletic Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder (27-7) are led by point guard Russell Westbrook and small forward Kevin Durant, both legitimate candidates the the All-NBA First Team. Westbrook and Durant are offensive monsters who have combined for an astounding 51 points, 12.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists a night.
Both stars would go up against the Bulls' Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, thus negating their production.
Oklahoma City is also better than the Bulls at the No. 4 and 5 positions, as Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins can shut down any opponent defensively.
No matter if Richard Hamilton or Ronnie Brewer starts for the Bulls, Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha is a lengthy lockdown defender who will stonewall their offensive production.
The Thunders' bench rivals the Bulls'. Players like Nick Collison, Daequan Cook and Sixth Man of the Year front-runner James Harden can keep up or even surpass the Bench Mob's effectiveness.
The Bulls are a young, talented team, but so are the Thunder. A Finals matchup with the two squads would go either way with the Bulls falling if they can't contain Westbrook/Durant.