The Chicago Bulls have performed much better than expected throughout this year and have overcome more challenges than most teams, including a new coach, half a new team and injuries to the starting frontcourt. Yet, the Bulls sit in first place and it appears they will be able to hold off Boston for the No. 1 seed in the East. And as the No. 1 seed the Bulls will have the privilege to play the easiest teams and work their way to the conference championship, and then the NBA Finals.
This analysis will consist of all playoff-bound teams, even though the Bulls probably will not play some. But who knows? It is March and I'm feeling some madness about upsets.
Several teams are making a push to earn the last playoff seed in the East, especially Charlotte, but for right now it appears as if the Bulls' first opponent will be the lowly Pacers. Not much else needs to be said besides the fact it will be over in four games. As a side note, I picked this picture because Tyler Hansbrough (my least favorite player in the NBA) will be crying after this series, as my favorite player, (Rose) repeatedly dunks over him.
The Knicks have had their fair share of problems; that is for sure. But with their scoring combo of oft-injured/soft big men and tendency to chuck shots without playing defense, the team has the potential to be, umm...fun to watch. When Mr. Big Shot returns though this team will become much better very quickly and have the offensive ability to make a run in the playoffs. By the miracle that leads to the Bulls and Knicks playing, the Bulls will win in five, due to the ability of 'Melo to score in at least one game.
It's a great city with a great history. But that history includes a recent stretch of terrible basketball for the 76ers, and a four-win series for the Bulls.
The team that handed out a huge contract to Joe Johnson, whom (gasp!) I actually wanted the Bulls to sign this summer. Fortunately management did not. But Atlanta has some quality players who can prove a problem for the Bulls, especially Josh Smith, Al Horford and Joe Johnson, at times.
And coming off the bench, Jamal Crawford is too good of a scorer to be shut down by Ronnie Brewer every single game. He will eventually score 20-plus in at least one game this series, and the Hawks will win that game because of it. Yet, the Bulls will take this one in five games or fewer.
Big Superman (Howard) takes on better superman (Rose) as a decent playoff series will erupt. Any team with Dwight Howard will be sound defensively in the half-court game that erupts during the playoffs. And his improving "back to the basket" game will be good for at least 20 points a night.
I am a huge Joakim Noah fan and respect the way he plays the game. But no one can shut down Dwight Howard completely. Throw in the fact Howard has more than 30 pounds on Noah and it will be a tough series for him.
Fortunately, the Magic have less depth and ability in their backcourt, as Gilbert Arenas still has not completely fit into his new team. If he and Howard ever get a groove, this team could be lethal. But for now, the Bulls will dominate. Howard will single-handedly win at least one game, potentially two, but the Bulls will come out on top in this series.
So remember a few slides back when I mentioned how Hansbrough was my least favorite player in the league? Well, I lied.
Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to perhaps the biggest whiner in the league with the biggest entourage, and the swagger of the best player in the world. Notice I said "swagger" of the best, not the "game" of the best—Kobe, that title is still yours until you retire. Then Derrick Rose will earn that distinction.
So, back to my subject: LeBron and Co.
The Heat were expected to be the best; 72-10 was supposed to be gone. The team would beat everyone by 30 points. We all heard the predictions—still haven't seen that play. Some say the team just needs more time to gel, but they have had all year. Their ceiling as a team probably is not much higher than it is now with their current coach.
Much to every Chicagoian's delight, the Bulls have walked all over the Heat. And will continue to do so. Granted, the Heat will win probably two games, but the Bulls will take this series.
Maybe the best line from a commercial this year was when Joakim Noah, in an ad for playoff tickets, said, "Boston, they don't like me over there." I love it!
The reason being the Bulls and Celts are almost perfectly created for an epic seven-game series against each other. Hopefully, these two teams will meet in a conference championship. Derrick had one of his first career 30-point nights against Boston in the playoffs; maybe he'll go for 50 this year.
What can we expect from this meeting? (Oh, please let it happen)
Seven games—it's going to happen.
Rose would have the opportunity to continue to show up Rondo and prove simultaneously that he is the best point guard in the NBA and Rondo is very overrated.
Ray Allen will have his hands full with Ronnie Brewer but will have a field day against Kyle Korver.
Luol will continue to score as he has all year and will play tough, pesky defense against Paul Pierce.
Joakim will just dominate the low post and probably earn a few flagrant fouls.
Carlos Boozer will score left and right against an aging and weak frontcourt without Perkins.
The Bulls bench will outplay the Celtics bench.
The Bulls will have home-court advantage for the final game of the series.
The Celtics will win the series 4-3.
The Bulls are talented, but not as talented. Yes, Boston is old. Yes, the Celtics lost their frontcourt. Yes, the Bulls have their defensive mastermind.
But Boston is still Boston to the effect that three future Hall of Famers will be on the court. The Bulls only have one very, very good MVP-type player. No Hall of Famers. No one on the court who has been to a championship. No one with playoff experience on the court.
Perhaps, if the Bulls land a shooting guard who can score 14 PPG during the summer, the Bulls will win this series. But for now, the Bulls ceiling is the Eastern Conference championship, where they will lose in seven to the Celts.