NBA Playoff Predictions 2011: Why the Chicago Bulls Can't Wait to Play Boston
The Chicago Bulls are the second hottest team in the NBA right now. The Boston Celtics can't seem to get their act together. The Bulls and Celtics meet for the fourth and final time of the regular season on April 7.
Last season, the Celtics were the team to come out of the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals. Coming into the 2010-11 season, the Celtics were favored to repeat their performance and come out of the East again.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat, they were no longer considered a contender. Their downfall was projected, but they fell even further than most expected. The Heat were considered the closest contender to the Celtics, with the Orlando Magic earning mention in the discussion.
The Atlanta Hawks were considered by many to be a distant fourth. The Bulls were looked at to finish in the bottom half of the playoff race. No one fully knew what to expect from new addition Carlos Boozer. As for the rest of the Bulls, they were considered a young unit with tremendous upside.
It was up in the air as to when the Bulls would storm up the rankings and contend for titles.
Well, thanks to Derrick Rose's stellar progression as a player, that time is upon us already. The Bulls currently hold a two-game lead on both Boston and Miami.
Here's a handful of reasons why the Bulls are itching to take the court with the Celtics on April 7.
The Bulls Are Hot
If it weren't for the Los Angeles Lakers' tear since the All-Star break, everyone would be talking about the Bulls.
The Bulls have won 12 of their last 14 games. A win tonight over the Minnesota Timberwolves would mean back-to-back months with only three losses. Rose has been trying to solidify his case for MVP and the rest of the team has followed his lead.
After a March 18 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Bulls took out their frustrations on their next two opponents. They beat the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks by a combined 72 points to rebound from the defeat.
Rose's ability to drive and finish around the rim is nicely complemented by his great court vision. The Bulls are a very unselfish team, and they benefit from that.
The Celtics Are Sliding
The Boston Celtics are reeling and the losses seem to be piling up.
Three weeks ago, I said that the only way Boston makes the news is if they start to struggle, and struggle they have. It's unfortunate to see a team only make news if they lose, but that's what the gaudy expectations of Boston have done to the team.
The Celtics have lost seven of their last 12, and they haven't been playing particularly great opponents. Their losses include the Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets and the Charlotte Bobcats. All three of these teams are in the bottom half of their conference standings, with Charlotte being the only team still with a shot at the postseason.
In four of their last five losses, the Celtics have shot the ball under 43 percent. Also, they've only had one player register more than 20 points in a contest.
It seems as if no one's willing to step up and try to pull the Celtics out of this slump.
Bulls Want to Prove They're the Best in the East
The Bulls know what they are capable of, now they just have to continue to prove themselves for the general public to believe in them.
For some reason, no matter how many games the Bulls win, there are still people that won't put them in the title conversation. They say that the Bulls don't have major playoff experience. They say that Derrick Rose isn't ready to carry a team to the NBA Finals.
If the Bulls are able to beat the Celtics for the second consecutive time, they might get a little more respect. The Celtics opened the season with two straight wins over Chicago, but the Bulls avenged the losses with an 11-point victory on Jan. 8.
When these two teams meet, the records and recent trends won't matter. An ice-cold Heat team handed the red-hot Lakers their only loss since the All-Star break not too long ago.
When the game's elite match up, don't expect one team to go out without a fight.
If either the Bulls or the Celtics finish at the top of the East, they won't meet the other until the Conference Finals barring a crash-and-burn in their final nine games.
The teams are more concerned about positioning in the postseason because of the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The current bottom three in order are the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.
The Knicks may be 2-8 in their last ten games, but none of the top teams want to see them in the first round. Also, the Sixers have proven their ability to beat the elite teams, posting wins over both Boston and Chicago in March.
Playing for the first seed is virtually competing to avoid either the Knicks or the Sixers.
Confidence Going into the Playoffs
The Chicago Bulls are a confident team right now and it shows.
Winning brings confidence and confidence helps you win. The two run hand in hand. If the Bulls can score a second-straight victory over the Celtics before the playoffs, they'll be flying high.
In the first contest between the two teams, it took overtime for the Celtics to get by the Bulls even though Carlos Boozer was inactive. In the second game between the teams, Boozer still wasn't able to log too many minutes. The Celtics were again victorious.
With a healthy Boozer in the third contest, the Bulls held the Celtics to 79 points. Boozer posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 boards. Boozer is again healthy for the fourth matchup.
If Boozer has his way, the Bulls will have tied up the season series with the Celtics.
The confidence of two straight Bulls triumphs could show mightily if the teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals or Semifinals.