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Cleveland vs. Chicago: Success for the Bulls Is Avoiding Embarassment

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IApril 15, 2010

CHICAGO - MARCH 30: Head coach Vinny Del Negro of the Chicago Bulls talks with Derrick Rose #1 during a game against the Phoenix Suns at the United Center on March 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Suns defeated the Bulls 111-105. 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

Reaching the postseason was an extraordinary feat for the Chicago Bulls; expecting them to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers once the games begin is entirely something else.

If the NBA switched their format to seed all of the league's playoff teams No. 1 through No. 16, the Bulls would be No. 16 and the Cavaliers would remain No. 1, and the disparity in talent is comparable to that level.

Few observers are giving the Chicago Bulls a chance to win a single game, and fewer still believe they can even be competitive, but can the Bulls at least spare themselves the pain of embarrassment?

That will be a task in itself, because the happy-go-lucky Bulls are about to face a Cavaliers' team that is among the most talented in the league, and they are motivated by the pain of losing in last season's Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cavaliers are deeper than the Bulls, more athletic, better defensively, and they have much better perimeter shooters, in addition to having one of the league's more underrated coaches in Mike Brown.

Then there is this guy named LeBron James, who is without a doubt the league's most complete player, and a person Chicago has no chance in hell of defending, regardless of who they assign to guard him.

The Bulls do have some advantages in the match-ups though, and Derrick Rose is similarly a player who the Cavaliers may be unable to defend with any of their stable of perimeter players.

Rose's strength and quickness allow him to get to the rim almost at will, and he has no trouble finishing strong at the basket or dishing the ball off to an open teammate.

The problem is, since the Bulls traded John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich exists as the only true threat from long distance, and the inability to stretch the Cavaliers on the perimeter will allow Cleveland to compact their aggressive defense even more.

Luol Deng can step outside and hit the three-point shot occasionally, but he is much more effective from 18 feet in, and can't be depended on to provide consistent help from the perimeter.

Joakim Noah is a high energy player and the NBA's best rebounder, but Cleveland can throw players at Noah in waves, and it's doubtful he will be able to hold up against the Cavaliers' depth for an entire series.

With the return of Shaquille O'Neal, the Cavaliers will have J.J. Hickson, Andersen Varejao, Zydrunas Ilglauskas, and Leon Powe, all of which can take turns defending Noah in various stages of the series.

The situation doesn't look hopeless for the Bulls but it's close, and their main goal besides trying to avoid being swept, should be to give a performance the city of Chicago can be proud of.

And who knows? The Bulls might just be able to make Cleveland work up a sweat before they are ushered into their extended offseason vacation.

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