Boozer, Rose and Deng
The first round of the NBA playoffs starts today and your Chicago Bulls take on the Philadelphia 76ers in this year's first playoff game. The time for debating and posturing is over, and now teams must either win or go home.
With the Bulls predicted to make a long run into the playoffs, there are three key players who may determine just how far the Bulls will actually go. Though each series will feature unique storylines and marque matchups, the real story will be how these three players, the Bull's Big three, overcome or wilt under the pressure of the NBA's biggest stage.
Carlos Boozer is the weak spot on the Bulls' defense. Everyone knows it. So, does he need to play better defense for the Chicago Bulls to win it all? No. They have the league-best record with his shoddy defense and they have actually developed their scheme around it. Would it be nice if he tried a little more often defensively? Sure, but that is neither here nor there.
Carlos Boozer needs to score for the Bulls to make a deep push into the playoffs. Against the three other great defenses in the East, the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers, Boozer has only scored over 20 points twice in 11 games. Against the 76ers, Boozer has averaged just over seven rebounds and 11 points per game.
If the Bulls are going to have a shot at winning it all this season, Boozer needs to play out of his mind offensively and will need to do so against the league's strongest defenses.
Luol Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist on January 21, and he has struggled through the pain in order to continue contributing to the dominant Chicago Bulls. Deng has had good games and bad games since his injury, but so far the good games have outnumbered the bad. That needs to continue.
Luol Deng needs to score consistently and must play the lock-down defense that has become his norm. Deng averaged a little over 15 points per game this season and will need to at least match that in the playoffs. Deng will have a tough test right away against the Philadelphia 76ers while possibly being checked by a similar lock-down defender in Andre Iguodala.
More importantly, for the Bulls to have a shot at the Eastern Conference championship, Deng will most likely need to rise to the challenge of checking LeBron James. Though no one can stop LeBron, Deng has done a great job of slowing him down and will need to continue that in order for the Bulls to beat the Miami Heat.
Derrick Rose Angry
Derrick Rose has played injured and rusty for a large part of the season and has not looked like last year's MVP. Despite the fact that the Bulls' record without Rose is an impressive 18-9, the Chicago Bulls will not get far without their best player playing at a high level.
Rose has to be efficient at shooting. When coming back from injuries, Rose has pushed too hard at times and has sacrificed quality for quantity when shooting. Rose needs to shoot over 50 percent from the field far more than he needs to score over 30 points per game. If the Bulls can get both 50 percent shooting and over 30 points, the Bulls will be a scary offensive team.
Rose also needs to take care of the ball. Having logged seven games with five or more turnovers, Rose is averaging just over three turnovers per game and has looked careless at times, especially when pushing the break. For the Bulls to have a chance at winning a championship, Rose needs to be smart with the ball against some of the league's best defenses and needs to log some assists and get his teammates easy shots.