This was supposed to be their year. Supposed to be the year the face of the current NBA put himself and his team on top of the world.
There was one thing they didn't count on. One thing that was almost surely not even going to compete in the playoffs before the very final games of the season.
The one thing they didn't count on: Chicago.
Cleveland, though they came closer in the fourth quarter, easily beat Chicago, who seemed unprepared with signs of nervousness.
The second game became closer, tied after the third, until LeBron became LeBron and did not miss, even with clever, daring defense by Luol Deng. After this second game, I turned on my computer, and some smart ass on ESPN was claiming he would be surprised if not for a sweep in this No. 1 vs No. 8 seed matchup.
Game three proved to disagree, go figure. With a close game throughout the whole match, Chicago's depth proved to much for Cleveland, and too many options for Chicago, which was meant to be the Cavs' forte, proved to be Cleveland's demise.
LeBron couldn't do anything against Deng, yet Deng could do anything against LeBron. Put in Rose coming into his own, Noah looking better and better, Hinrich and various other options, and Chicago took Cleveland out.
Okay, so two to one. No problem. The Lakers are only also leading by 2-1. But there is no doubt who'll win that series. The Lakers are too much.
But I'm not so sure about Cleveland. So I present you why the Bulls will, ruining millions of predictions in the process, beat Cleveland in round one.
Reason No. 1:
Derrick Rose's first step.
Rose has the fastest first step in the league. Mo Williams has one of the slowest reaction of any point guard in the association on defense.
Rose played very well in the first two games, but didn't take advantage of his quickness versus Williams until game three, and it showed.
He simply ran right past Mo on numerous occasions, either scoring during the process, or drawing a double team in the paint, leaving many teammates either sleepily guarded or simply not defended.
If Williams realizes he won't be able to keep up with Rose if he plays him up close starting at the three point line, Derrick shouldn't be afraid to use his new found decent perimeter shot, leaving Williams in a dilemma.
At this point in the series, it is safe to say the only defender the Cavs hold to stop Rose, will be LeBron, who can stop virtually anybody not named Bryant. Yet, putting LeBron on Rose either means Williams will be playing Deng, or the Cavaliers simply stop using Williams, hurting them offensively.
Luol Deng's defense on LeBron.
Maybe the deciding factor in game three, and the only reason the game was ever close in the first two games, was Luol Deng. More specifically, Luol Deng's defense.
This far into the season, apart from maybe Artest or Josh Smith, I have yet to see anyone as confidently, and smartly, defend James, perimeter on paint.
Luol Deng has been constantly daring James to shoot that perimeter shot and, though he went on fire from deep in game two, it has frustrated and hurt LeBron's game.
LeBron could probably take Deng on in the paint, yet that leaves the opportunity that Noah converges and helps out, another player who constantly frustrates James.
And, obviously, Deng has an offensive game to back it up.
Shaq's subpar defense in guarding Noah or Miller.
Noah exploded in game two, and the other two games he played consistently well. As has Miller.
Neither, though Noah had some bright games during the season, had the most promising course of 82 games, and the Center spot was meant to hurt the Bulls against the Cavs.
So, what stands as the reason for this outburst?
Shaq, though once the most dominant defender in the league, just doesn't have the speed, or even strength, to hold Noah and Miller from scoring. Miller can lead Shaq out of the paint, and has found himself wide open from right outside the paint.
Noah, though he doesn't carry the same stroke as Miller, has tremendously improved his post game, and can drive past Shaq without much difficulty.
Game four is Sunday. Don't be surprised to see these three deciding factors playing a gigantic role in beating the Cavs for the Bulls.
Sorry LeBron. One more year maybe. One more year into you lead your team into fame, one more year until it's your year.
For now though, Chicago has the advantage. And they'll use it.