How the Bulls can beat the Cavs

If the Bulls beat the Cavaliers, it would represent the greatest playoff upset in NBA history.   At least the greatest I can think of.   Only the once, Warriors over Mavs, has an eight beat a one in a seven game series, and the coaching situation and specific matchup made it ripe to happen.  So what makes me think the Bulls can beat the Cavs?

Well quite honestly, nothing.   I think the Bulls have a very limited chance to win this series.   It's not simply that the Cavs are more talented and have the best player, but it's also the fact that they're rested while almost every key player on the Bulls is banged up.

Luol Deng looks like he's playing at about 50%.   Joakim Noah discussed how much his foot still hurts, but he's going entirely on adrenalin.   Taj Gibson's play has tailed off as his plantar fasciitis is flared up.   James Johnson has a tear in his plantar fascia muscle, and Brad Miller has an assortment of nagging injuries that any player his age would have.

For the Bulls to win, they'll need to catch basically every break, but here are the key things that need to happen.

Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah need to dominate their positions on both ends of the court.  

Rose is the Bulls best player, and he's going to need to play big on both ends, because he's matched up against the Cavs second best player and most reliable three point shooter.   Rose needs to make sure he stays with Williams off the ball where he has a tendency to sometimes lose guys.   

It's not going to be an easy (or fair) matchup for Rose on either end as Rose needs to shut down Williams by himself while Williams will have a whole team's worth of help defense to defend Rose.   Still, if the Bulls are to win, this is what needs to happen.

Joakim Noah's plight is almost just as bad.  He'll be going up against a combination of Verajao, Shaq, and Z.   Three guys with entirely different games, but he'll have to dominate all three with his athleticism and energy while staying with Z on the perimeter and trying to keep Shaq from getting easy dunks.

How many extra possessions and scores Noah can bring the Bulls will largely determine whether or not the Bulls can be competitive.   Our offense doesn't run through Noah, but his offensive rebounding and put backs allow our stagnant half court offense to look more efficient.  His ability to take the ball down the court on the break opens up a lot of fastbreaks we wouldn't have otherwise.

Speed up the game and make it a track meet

The Bulls probably can't win a track meet against the Cavaliers, but there's no way they can win a brawl.   The Cavs half court offense is worlds better than the Bulls, so if this becomes a half court game, the Bulls will have no chance.

Our single greatest advantage offensively is Joakim Noah hustling down the floor against Z or Shaq.  The Bulls need to get a lot of baskets out of the Cavs big men being slow and Noah being fast.   That won't be easy as the Cavs will slow the game down and try to prevent fast breaks.

The Bulls need to come up with a plan to defend LeBron

Luol Deng has done a fair job on LeBron in the past, but he's battling through a lot of injuries, and in his present state of health, LeBron looks like he's just going to destroy Deng.  

Kirk Hinrich can probably pester LeBron in small stretches, but his size is going to stop this from being any kind of permanent option, though Kirk with help underneath might be the best option if Deng isn't healthy.

James Johnson flashed some great defense against LeBron earlier this season, but it's unlikely Vinny will trust him enough to give the match up much of a chance, and his own plantar fascia tear may prevent him from repeating the effort anyway.

I'm sure LeBron will see an array of double teams and a whole scheme aimed at stopping him, but the Cavs have enough talent now that a triple LeBron at all costs plan has no hope of working.

If the Bulls win a couple games, I expect Johnson to be a pretty big part of it, as I think he's the most likely candidate to frustrate LeBron on the roster given Luol's health problems.   That alone should scare you out of expecting any wins.

Kirk for three!

When Kirk is hitting the three the Bulls are worlds tougher to defend.   Derrick Rose gets more space to work with, and the offense moves much better.   He's been streaky his whole career, and he hasn't been reliable this year, but for the Bulls to have a shot at winning, they'll need quality shooting from the three point line and Kirk is the most likely candidate.

If Deng, Miller, Pargo, Johnson, or Murray can step up as well then all the better, but the Bulls need to spread the floor to give Rose a chance, or they need to punish the Cavs severely for not respecting the shooters.

Of our guys, Kirk is the most likely to make it happen, and he's been on a hot streak from the three point arc recently, so we can at least hope.


Sadly, it's unlikely that the Bulls are able to accomplish almost any of these things yet alone accomplishing all four frequently enough to win the series.   There really is no argument [other than LeBron getting hit by a bus style argument] that says the Bulls should win, and in a seven game series you simply can't just get lucky once, you need to get lucky four times. 

Odds of the Bulls taking down the Cavs: 1.7%.


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  • I agree with your thoughts. And you didn't even talk about Jamison. He is a tough match-up for the Bulls.
    The only hope is the CAVS are rusty and the Bulls are in a rhythm. Somehow, that way(wishful thinking) the Bulls win Game 1 like they won the game in the beginning of the season and put pressure on CAVS. Then they probably get swept in the next 4 games.

    If the Bulls are mentally tough, they can give us a good series.

  • Doug, what about the Warriors upset of the Mavericks? That was also 8 seed to 1

  • How the Bulls can beat the Cavs? Win the HEAD-TO-HEAD match-ups!!!


    PG - Derrick Rose vs. Mo Williams...Rose needs to win that.

    SG - Kirk Hinrich vs. Anthony Parker...Hinrich needs to win that.

    SF - Luol Deng vs. LeBron James...Deng has to keep that close, somehow.

    PF - Taj Gibson vs. Antawn Jamison...Gibson has to keep that close somehow.

    C - Joakim Noah vs. Shaquille O'Neal...Joakim Noah needs to win that.


    PG - Jannero Pargo vs. Daniel Gibson...Pargo needs to outshoot Gibson.

    SG - Flip Murray vs. Delonte West...Murray needs to outshoot West.

    PF - Hakim Warrick vs. Anderson Varejao...Warrick needs to outwork Varejao somehow.

    C - Brad Miller vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas...Miller has to be the steadier player.

    It's all about the HEAD-TO-HEAD matchups.

    If each Bulls' player can outplay and outwork the guy across from them, then I think the Bulls can pull the MONUMENTAL UPSET.

    It's not going to be easy, but it can be done.

    Who has the BIGGER HEART? I can't wait to find out.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    You don't scheme for Pargo to get into a shooting match with anyone, ever. Such is a recipe for losing basketball.

  • In reply to WearShades:

    Yah I don't want pargo touching or receiving the ball at all, in fact I want him in a suite the rest of the season. Only thing I didn't like..

  • In reply to WearShades:

    I think Doug's trying to jinx the series in our favor by putting the odd's the same as chances of drafting Rose, Good thinking ;)

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Doug, is the reason you put the odds at 1.7% because that's the exact percentage the Bulls last beat the odds at?

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    "If Deng, Miller, Pargo, Johnson, or Murray can step up as well then all the better"
    There it is right proof this is absurdly unlikely... If Pargo can step up? I think there's a better chance LeBron get hits by a bus

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Maybe Paxson and Del Negro will settle their differences and will each take swings at the cavs in unison. jk Go Bulls!!!

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    The CAVS wanted the Bulls because they will wake them up. If it was Raptors, it would have been like last year. They want the Bulls to keep them going. I hope that works the other way too. The Bulls matching up well and giving them a shocking surprise

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Doug, wasn't 1.7% the same percentage the Bulls had of winning the lottery and Derrick Rose? Haha.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    Best post you've ever written in my opinion, I really like how you layed it all out...yah definatly all about heart this series...

  • I forgot one.

    SF - James Johnson vs. Jamario Moon...Johnson needs to show up and suprise.

    * The Cavs also have JJ Hickson. He could cause match-up problems.

  • Is Daniel Gibson out of this series? He hasn't played alot of mintues lately.

    That would help, I guess.

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    Predicting Cavs in 6 here but I think the Bulls do have at least a snowball's chance. The Bulls are a problem the Cavs haven't fully solved.

    The Bulls don't fear the Q. The Cavs defend the 3 better than any team in the league. That's great, but the Bulls take the fewest 3s in the league. They've shown they can defend Lebron in endgame situations - remember their first pairing this season where Lebron got trapped by a double-team (Deng and Noah I think), got his shot blocked and cried for a foul? The Bulls rebound well against the Cavs ancient frontcourt. So yeah, if the Bulls can speed up the game and if Hinrich can get hot then Chicago can definitely make this one interesting.

    Oh yeah, and we gotta jump on them game 1.

  • I agree I think the Cavs will win in 5 but the bulls have been full of surprises this year so maybe they have a few more.

  • The Bulls may want to suit up Rob Kurz over Acie Law.

    Cleveland will be running 4 BIGS outthere off their bench.

    - Varajao
    - Ilgauskus
    - Powe
    - Williams

    Currently, the Bulls only have 3 BIGS coming in off their bench.

    - Miller
    - Warrick
    - Richard

    * Apparently, Kurz can shoot the ball and he is 6'9" tall.


  • In reply to MrHappy:

    and IT CAN BE DONE...TWICE!!!

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    The Bulls have absolutely nothing to be stressed about. They are better then their 8th seed would indicate, but are very banged up. What the heck is the fitness/athletic trainer doing or not doing why so many Bulls have this plantar fascitis? These guys are millionares why can't they access to the best that medical science can give them and the routine to avoid this from happening, if not that to recover faster. Are they guys truely being overworked this bad so they are having these foot problems? How widespread is this problem in the NBA?
    This is truely a David vs Goliath series. The Bulls need to steal a game, the 1st one would be very nice and take 1 game at a time. They are the small guy in the the fight that picks on the big guy and everyone says to the big guy...Heah pick on someone your own size!!! GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I think the most important thing you referenced was the need to get out on the break in transition. The Bulls have to push the ball like they did last night. If we get stuck in the half-court game, we will get crushed. Noah is the best running big man in the game and Shaq and Z certainly can't keep up with him. If the Bulls have any juice left after the playoff run and can push the ball for 48 minutes and not get stuck in the half-court game, I think they can win 2 or possibly take the Cavs to 7. At the very least, somehow, Noah's guts and will alone will win them 1 game.

  • Lol. And I rarely leave a Lol.

  • Win it for Vinny! LOL
    He'd be gone already if you didn't get into the playoffs!
    The management needs a serious makeover and fast to even have a remote chance of enticing any decent free agent to Chicago.
    $ alone will not do it.

  • Niiice, love the idea.

  • Great points Doug, I pretty much agree with ya...these are my keys

    Rose and Noah need to dominate
    Deng has to slow down Bron
    Kirk has to score at least 10-12ppg a game

  • 1.7%, interesting number, about equal to the Bulls chances of landing the first, second or third pick in the draft through the lottery.

    What is more appealing an infinitesimal chance of beating the Cavs, or the same shot at another D Rose.

    50%, another interesting number. Dung however, is not playing at 50%, he is playing like he is 50 years old, which for all that we know he might very well be.

    Bulls only shot at winning is Lebron James not playing, and even then at best it would be the Celtics series of last season.

  • Okay Doug whats your predictions? are you going to make a thread?

  • Mark it down, Bulls in 7

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