NBA Playoffs 2011: Why the Chicago Bulls' Easy Playoff Schedule Will Pay Off

Sean O'DowdContributor IIIMay 3, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 26: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls moves up the court against the Indiana Pacers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 26, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 116-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NBA season was winding down and the No. 1 seed in the East was up for grabs. Miami wanted it desperately, partly because LeBron and co. were determined to prove their widely-publicized summer decision was the correct one. Yet, Miami was too far back to make a serious push for the first seed.

Boston was another story. The perennial championship contender and veteran team did not care about seeding. Under Doc Rivers, the aging team was concerned only with the health of their players, namely Shaq. So they rested their starters and prepared for a first round date with the Knicks.

Neither ended up winning as the Bulls coasted under Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and likely MVP Derrick Rose to not only the No. 1 seed in the East, but the best record in the NBA. The regular season ended for the Bulls in mid April, but the No. 1 seed hasn’t started paying dividends yet.

The first round came and went rather quickly. Aside from a highly improbable three by Lou Williams, the Heat easily sent the 76ers back to Philadelphia. Boston proved once again the mantra “defense wins championships” accurate as they easily trounced an outstanding offensive Knicks team that plays lazy defense.

The Bulls finished off the Pacers in five, including a high scoring final game. But the No. 1 seed still did not play an important role as all of the top three teams easily advanced. 

With the second round now here, the true benefit of the No. 1 seed emerges. The Bulls are engaged in a series against the Atlanta Hawks that should not last more than five games, despite the Bulls' poor play in Game 1. The Hawks certainly are a talented team, but the Bulls have more ability, discipline and better coaching.

Even though the Bulls lost, their defense was not great and offense was lacking, expect the Bulls to be able to fix this issue quickly. As a result, this is where the advantage of the No. 1 seed begins to play a big role in deciding who will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, or in other words, who gets the right to play the Lakers.

As the No. 1 seed, the Bulls get to play the Atlanta Hawks, finish the series off quickly, then recline and watch the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics duel it out. And for every game they play, the better the Bulls' chances will be against the winner. And with the talent on both teams, this series could easily last seven games. In fact, it would be a surprise if it was less than six.

Let’s say Boston wins the series in seven. Three aging all-stars in KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce must go from an extremely tiring series into one against the Bulls without fresh legs. Throw in the fact Boston’s frontcourt includes Shaq (maybe) and Jermaine O’Neal, look out. With their age and worn out legs due to the potential long series, the energetic Joakim Noah will completely dominate the paint.

So what if Miami was to win the series? Again, it would last at least six games, probably seven, and would leave the Heat rather tired. While the Heat might not be as old as Boston, they have a weakness themselves. Due to the fact Miami has no bench, the Heat’s big three will have to play more minutes, tiring them out more quickly.

As a result, it really does not matter in the long run who wins the Miami-Boston series because either team would enter the matchup against the Bulls extremely worn out. Since the Bulls should be able to beat Atlanta quickly, they will have plenty of time to rest up, and rather fresh legs.

Not only will the Bulls be rested, but the team will be given time to heal in case of injury. For example, Kyle Korver has said during this year, according to ESPN, “He (Derrick Rose) plays with injuries you guys don’t know about.” While no Bulls fans wants to see Rose or anyone else serious injured, it’s likely at this point of the season everyone has some bumps and bruises. The players could heal and rest up during this down time. 

Carlos Boozer is also dealing with injuries himself as he recently injured his toe, which is limiting him during practice. Boozer’s elevation while finishing under the rim has slightly diminished because of his older age, but with an injured toe it could be even worse. The down time between series while Miami and Boston will still be playing could help Boozer completely recover.

Perhaps the biggest benefit from the Bulls getting down time while Miami and Boston battle it out, due to their seeding, is what coach Tom Thibodeau can do with it. The Coach of the Year has been phenomenal this year and has shown, if given time, he has the ability to come up with an outstanding game plan that can take out either Miami or Boston.

Due to all of these reasons, the Bulls will have an opportunity to enter the Eastern Conference Finals with several big advantages. With all the benefits that will come from Miami and Boston tiring themselves out, and the resulting down time given to the Bulls, Chicago would have a legitimate chance to make the NBA Championship. All due to the No. 1 playoff seed.

Additionally, the Bulls would get home-court advantage in a potential Game 7 matchup in the NBA Championship. Again, all the result of the Bulls finishing the season as the No. 1 seed.