If I had to create a confidence pool on the first round, it would have gone something like this:
Bulls 8, Lakers 7, Heat 6, Magic 5, Thunder 4, Spurs 3, Celtics 2, Blazers 1
What does this prove? First, that I don't have a career as a vegas odds maker, and also that predicting the playoffs is never as easy as you think when making the predictions.
I figured realistically, the only series really in doubt were Boston/NY and Dallas/Blazers. As it turns out, the Hawks pulled a huge upset, and the Grizzlies are in line to do the same thing.
The playoffs always surprise us, and this year surprises are good for the Bulls
I was more scared of Orlando than Boston, but you know who doesn't scare me more than Boston? Atlanta. In my opinion, Atlanta's the worst team to make it to the second round, and that's true regardless of whether the Spurs or Grizzlies advance.
What can the Hawks do to the Bulls?1
Al Horford can give them trouble. He's a guy who can match up well against either Noah or Boozer on both sides of the court. The Hawks should look to get him as involved as possible, as he's the player who probably best has a matchup advantage while on offense.
They can occasionally shoot well. Joe Johnson's a solid shooter, Jamal Crawford and Kirk Hinrich are streaky. If the Hawks are shooting lots of threes though, the Bulls probably end up winning games, because they're more likely to shoot themselves out of games than shoot themselves into them.
They have a pretty solid defense, and assuming they go back to playing small with Horford at center against the Bulls, they can do better than most teams defensively on a PG/PF switch with Josh Smith out there.
What can the Bulls do to the Hawks?
The Hawks likely have no answer for Derrick Rose. Kirk Hinrich's likely their best perimeter defender, but he's notoriously bad on PGs with great first step and plays better against bigger guys who don't have an extreme speed advantage on him.
Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer, and Keith Bogans are all solid defenders to throw at Joe Johnson, their best offensive player, so the Bulls should do a solid job defensively on Atlanta as they can cover up their most dynamic offensive player with a variety of people using primarily single coverage.
Deng matches up really well against Marvin Williams assuming the Hawks go back to him at SF rather than using Jason Collins at center (likely the case against Chicago), so I expect Deng to have a big series as well.
Early series prediction
Bulls in five.
It wouldn't surprise me if it went six, but if so, it will be one of those series that's likely not a real competitive six. I don't anticipate ever feeling like the Hawks can win this thing.
I'm shocked the Hawks upset the Magic, but on top of that, I don't get the feeling that the Hawks just played outstanding as much as the Magic simply couldn't get anything done in the playoffs. The Hawks averaged 87.4 points per game in the playoffs so far, and 83.5 in the past four games after a hot game one.
Quite simply, the Bulls defense should contain these guys rather easily, and the Bulls offense, while not performing at amazing levels, should still be able to score at a reasonable clip.
Figure the shots fall, the refs miss some calls, the Bulls lay an egg, or something for 1-2 games, but teh Bulls should be pretty heavy favorites in each game.