NBA playoff breakdown, Bulls kick it off 11:30 on Saturday

The Chicago Bulls kick things off with a dreaded day game. The Bulls have performed poorly thus far in these types of games, though it's worth noting the competition is always top notch during these games.

According to Brian Windhurst ESPN, the first round of the playoffs will not be compressed, but the second round will feature back to backs which seems like an odd choice as the first round typically sucks, and the second round is where things get good. Poor choice for the NBA IMO.

Bulls vs 76ers

The 76ers wanted the Bulls, and the 76ers got the Bulls. I can't blame Evan Turner for saying he wanted to draw Chicago rather than Miami. Despite Chicago's record they haven't played at full strength in a long time, and we have seen Derrick Rose play anywhere near his MVP caliber level since the groin injury.

In the past two seasons, the 76ers are just 2-4 against the Bulls which seems to be in stark contrast to the thought that the 76ers have had the Bulls number which I've seen written in several places. While Philly wanted Chicago, Chicago also likely wanted Philly. The 76ers aren't likely to turn these games into scoring fests which should allow Chicago to lean on their defense and interior play if Rose still needs to work out the kinks of his game and isn't at his full level of explosiveness.

The Bulls biggest advantage will be on the interior where the 76ers have lack size. They'll play a lot of small ball, but Chicago's athletic bigs should have little trouble matching up against those small by lineups defensively while putting the 76ers in peril in the post and on the offensive glass on the other end.

The key for the 76ers will be Thaddeus Young. He'll play plenty of PF and whether or not he can force the Bulls to rotate in small and match up to the 76ers or whether the Bulls can take advantage of him with their interior size will be a big momentum swing in terms of how the game is played. The Bulls should win regardless, but if Philly has to adjust to Chicago rather than the other way around they're doubly screwed.

Prediction: Bulls in five

Heat vs Knicks

The Heat get the disadvantage of playing the one team in 6-8 range that has a chance to make a little noise. Carmelo Anthony finished the season on a tear, Tyson Chandler should win the DPOY award, and Amare looks good returning from injury. The Knicks will look to turn this into an offensive shoot out, but Miami will have the advantage either way.

The one downside for the Knicks is they can't really attack the Heat at either of their biggest weaknesses, C and PG. The Knicks offense will largely run through the Heat's defensive strengths. The Heat will also have little trouble scoring on the Knicks and won't ultimately struggle against them.

The X-Factor for the Knicks is J.R. Smith. He's an incredible chucker at the worst of times, but when he catches fire he's one of those guys that can become a dominant force on offense. The Knicks need J.R. Smith at his best this series to unload on the Heat from the second unit and add tons of pressure.

Of course, once a team relies on J.R. Smith, you know it's probably over. The Knicks will hope for some superior play out of their stars, but ultimately, the Heat stars are just much better.

Prediction: Heat in five

Indiana vs Orlando

The Howardless Magic are going to get annihilated by the Pacers. They're by far the worst team in the playoffs and don't have anyone to match up with Roy Hibbert, David West, and Tyler Hansbrough. Indiana's going to plow through this series, and there's little else to break down.

Prediction: Pacers in four

Atlanta vs Boston

The Hawks are the fifth seed, but they'll get home court due to a better record. This is probably the most compelling first round series in the Eastern Conference, particularly since the two teams went seven games against each other in the first round a couple of years ago.

With Al Horford, the Hawks would be my pick to win, but they won't have Horford. As such, Atlanta will have a hard time capitalizing on the Celtics lack of size and rebounding which is their biggest flaw. Since the Hawks can't capitalize there, the game becomes a matter of shot making and defense, and the Celtics are more consistent with both in the half court.

In general, Atlanta strikes me as a group of bum slayers. They've got a nice record built largely against lousy teams and struggle to earn big wins. They've had a nice season given they've had to do it without Horford, and I commend them for it, but I don't see them beating Boston in the first round.

Prediction: Boston in six

Chicago vs Boston (probable second round)

The Bulls beat the Celtics twice without Derrick Rose, and I don't think they'll struggle much with him there. Chicago matches up very well against Boston because they have too much rebounding for the Celtics to deal with. The Bulls will get 10-15 extra possessions per game off the offensive glass countering whatever shotmaking the Celtics have.

The Bulls also matchup well defensively against the Celtics who don't have a really big physical guy to take the Bulls in the paint. I'd much rather face Boston than Indiana as a Bulls fan.

Prediction: Bulls in five

Miami vs Indiana (probable second round)

If the Pacers could get great PG play, they'd have a chance to win this series. They've got an incredible athletic, strong, lanky perimeter defender in Paul George to help cover up on LeBron, the interior size to do damage in the paint, and enough offensive firepower on the perimeter to stop the Heat from double teaming much.

The Heat are clearly the favorites, and Miami clearly struggles with the Celtics, but they'd better not sleep on Indiana, or this has the potential to be an upset.

All that said, the Heat are more consistent on both ends of the court and have the star players they can rely on to score in the series. Indiana will make it tough and physical, but the Heat will win.

Prediction: Heat in six

Chicago vs Miami (probable ECF)

We've talked about this matchup all year. My head says that if Derrick Rose has regained his explosiveness by the time this series plays out [which isn't unreasonable as it's a month away], then the Bulls win. There's this theory out there that the Heat aren't trying hard in the regular season, but the big three seemed to be trying pretty hard while their bench let them down.

Do you think the bench steps it up in the playoffs if they couldn't do it in the regular season? It could happen. The Heat could steamroll through Chicago again like last year, and health will play a significant factor in the outcome. However, I just don't see that this time around.

The Bulls may play hard all year, but they played hard without their cornerstone for around 45% of the games and still had a better record than Miami. They beat the Heat without Rose once and effectively without him a second time, lost only due to Rose choking on free throws a third time, and lost the final game where Rose sat out. Miami discussed how they viewed these games as playoff games but couldn't get up for them.

While they'll scare me until they win, if the Bulls are really healthy [big if I know] then I'm taking Chicago. I think the Bulls will be healthy.

Prediction: Bulls in 7

San Antonio vs Utah

I think the Spurs are the paper tigers of the West which is exactly what I said last year prior to them getting bounced in the first round. They won't get bounced this time. Unlike Memphis, Utah isn't a team with all the pieces it needs to put together an upset special.

Overall, the Spurs did a nice job earning the #1 seed and will have as easy a path as you can hope for to the WCF.

Prediction: Spurs in four

OKC vs Dallas

The Thunder draw a tough route to the NBA finals and have to face the defending champion Mavericks in round one. I like Dallas's ability to match up on the Thunder and think it will become a tough fight for them to get past the Mavs. I wonder if the Mavs would have had a chance to repeat this year had they kept Tyson Chandler to shore up their interior defense, but alas, we'll never know.

All that said, the Thunder are too athletic and have too many options. They simply need to turn the game into a track meet and the Mavericks are unlikely to keep up. I think it's a much tougher series than they'd have earned if they had to go up against the Jazz or Nuggets, but not one that OKC struggles with.

Prediction: Thunder in six

L.A. Lakers vs Denver

The Nuggets are a scrappy team filled with a bunch of role players whom George Karl gets to play at a high level. They don't have the star power, offense, or defense to get past L.A.

The only thing that makes this a series is the Lakers imploding. While I doubt any team would risk throwing playoff games, L.A. is probably best off if this series lasts six games just to get Ron Artest's suspension over with so that he's ready to play against OKC in the second round.

Prediction: Lakers in five

Memphis vs L.A. Clippers

My prediction for the best first round series overall in the playoffs, lob city vs the grinders. The Grizzlies are a great five man unit with plenty of balance on both ends of the court. The Clippers are incredibly explosive and have the best star player available.

In an oddity, the Clippers failed to secure home court by losing to a Knicks team that was attempting to tank. Chris Paul sat out the game, but that tells you something about what this team can do without Paul.

The two biggest differences in this series is that Memphis has some real playoff experience as a team from last season, and the Clippers have one of the worst coaches in the NBA.

Prediction: Memphis in six

San Antonio vs Memphis (probable)

The Grizzlies knocked off the Spurs last season in only the third 1/8 upset in NBA history [I think, don't quote me on that]. I'm sure the Spurs will be looking for revenge this year, but they'll struggle with much of what they did last year. Memphis a deep team and has even more talent stacked upon last years squad with Rudy Gay healthy. On the other hand, the Grizzlies haven't been getting world beater performances from Zach Randolph who's missed more than half the season.

In the west, I can see either second round series going either way, but I'll pick the Grizzlies in six.

OKC vs L.A. Lakers (probable)

This will be the most exciting series in the second round to watch, star talent all over the place and two fun teams that can score. If The Lakers knock off the Nuggets too fast and World Peace is suspended for the first two games of this series it will help the Thunder tremendously. Otherwise, I like the way the Lakers match up against the Thunder, because throwing a physical, athletic, and psychotic defender on Durant seems like a good way to slow him down.

Unfortunately for L.A., they have absolutely no answer for Russell Westbrook. The Lakers can't defend the PG position, and so if Westbrook has a solid series, then the Thunder should role. The Thunder match up fairly well with the Lakers size having Perkins and Ibaka as two solid interior defenders, so L.A. won't be able to beast the Thunder like they might other teams.

While a Laker upset wouldn't shock me, I'll take the Thunder in six.

WCF is too iffy to predict a matchup

I have Thunder vs Memphis, but I could see this going in any number of directions, so I'm not going to spend time breaking down a matchup which probably won't happen. As it stands, I predict the Thunder to be the team coming out of the West be it against San Antonio, Memphis, or the Clippers.

NBA Finals

I'm taking whomever comes out of the East over whomever comes out of the West, but I think this will be the best finals matchup on paper (regardless of teams) that we've seen in a long time.

It's great to have a real horse in the race, and while I think the odds are the season ends in disappointment for Chicago, the same is true for everyone else as well. There's no team I'd take over the field, and the Bulls are one of the teams with the best chance to win.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Tags: chicago bulls, nba, playoffs

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  • I think it was the 4th 8 over 1 upset.

    Nuggets over Sonics in '94(?)
    Knicks over Heat in '99 (?)
    Warriors over Mavs a few years back
    Grizz over Spurs last year.

    the more I think about, the less I'm worried about rounds 1 & 2. it's all about getting to the ECF and then letting the chips fall where they may.

  • Ugh, I hope you're the only one going with Chicago, keep the pressure all on Miami. ;)

    I don't think the Knicks will beat Miami, I agree a loss in 5 seems most likely. I think they'll go down 2-0 quickly, but if they could respond and win the 2 at MSG would anyone bet on Miami being able to respond and close out the series? Games 5, 6 and 7 would be full of pressure if that happens. I'm not even someone who believes the whole LeBron is a choker narrative, but I'm not so sure of it that I'd want to make a bet.

    On the Philly side of things, them saying they wanted the Bulls is laughable. They wanted to win their division, they got the Bulls because they played like crap in the second half of the season.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    You don't believe lebron is a "choker"? Do you have evidence supporting otherwise? Not trying to be a smart ass but seriously if you watched the finals last yeaor how could you not believe? Honestly I haven't seen a meaningful game he's played in (playoffs or finals) where he's emerged as the closer. But maybe I'm an idiot. Idk

  • In reply to insertclichehere:

    He kicked the bulls ass all series long there was no choking in the ECF for LeBron. Wade could have stepped up so could Bosh it is crazy to only blame LeBron for the Finals meltdown.

  • In reply to Chad:

    So why didnt he do it in the finals then? Bosh played his ass off in the finals if you remember and so did Wade starting off. Lebron constantly defferred to other teammates. Passing to bosh, passing to Eddie House, Are you serious? He did kick the crap out the bulls, but when it COUNTED in the finals he didnt step up. That was my bad for saying no playoff game because your'e right he did Smash the bulls, but he backed down time and again in the finals. He choked. If you had to explain what was going on to a blind man you would describe what you were witnessing was someone who Has all the talent in the world to Take over any game or any series just not getting it done. I mean I cant believe im explaining this to you as all this was clearly analyzed over and again. And at times even this very Blog has raised questions about his ability to finish games.

  • In reply to insertclichehere:

    It's the playoffs, every game counts, if you lose in the first round you don't win the championship just the same as if you lose in the finals. Ask Dirk about that, another guy who was a choker until he won then suddenly he wasn't. It's all just a BS narrative people spin over a really small sample size.

    If you look at LeBron's entire playoff record he averages 28/8/7 on 56% TS%. I'd love to have someone on the Bulls choke like that.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Lebron has had a pretty large sample size now. And discounting the numbers, he visibly regresses when the pressure is on. It happens consistently. For whatever reason, he feels supremely confident against the Bulls. But I hope we can change that shortly and give him yet another complex.

  • The compressed second round really helps out the bulls. They should sweep the sixers, and then face a tired team in the second round. Either the Hawks, who aren't exactly known for making adjustments on the fly, or the Celtics, who need three days off between games just to get the Ben-Gay stink off. I could see the bulls sweeping both rounds and Rose getting a ton of time to rest and practice. The Heat on the other hand, will have to grind out a Knicks series, and then face a fresh Pacers team that will get extra rest, and is better able to handle back to backs. I like the bulls chances.

  • You're being very optimistic with the Predictions (EC) anyway. I think NY wins at least 2. Melo will get them one game by himself and The Knicks always have a game where everyone is ON. Fields, amare, melo, JR.. They have the talent and will win 2. As long as melo doesn't turn this series into trying to prove he's better than lebron than the knicks can at least present a challenge to MIA.

  • The Sixers have given the Bulls some trouble at times and some losses. As did all their playoff opponents last season making them shoot for very poor career low percentages. Once the Bulls became a legit threat, doubling Derrick ala Jordan Rules became a real comittment. Only the tremendous defense kept them in games and series. So what has changed?

    Yes Collins appeared to lose the team accentuated by the somewhat infamous kicking back, hands behind his head slouch during a nationally televised game, after his comments about "today's players"(as in his) being so fragile etc.

    Still, nothing would make Collins happier then sticking it to his own team as he's shown in Sixer wins over Chicago. Iggy and the gang do seem to relish beating what many feel is a paper tiger in the Bulls, at least in a playoff setting. I wouldn't be surprised if Philly wins two games of this series.

    Watching Derrick since his return he is either seriously hampered or being extremely passive. You could say he's waiting for the playoffs, but he just saunters up the court at such a slow trot. The Pacers sending the doubling big seemed to completely stifle D-Rose offensively as it did in last year's playoffs shooting.what 40%?

    The Bulls have shown me nothing to convicne me that the extended doubling on Derrick with the quickly retreating big once Derrick gives up his dribble is still not going to hamper him as it did in last year's playoffs. Before those playoffs he was averaging in the mid to high 20's at 45-47% Now that the Bulls are a legit threat, people have taken to stopping Derrick. I see no signs that they won't be able to do it again. I hope I'm wrong. If Derrick can be effective then obviously everything changes, and the Bulls could win it all. I'm hoping for a break through from Derrick and Thibs in regards to the hyper extended flashing big doubles.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I don't have much of a problem with Derrick slowing the pace down in the last couple of games. We know what he can do on the break with Rip and the others - that's more of an instinctive thing with point guards anyway since there aren't set plays for fast breaks - but the starting unit really needed to practice and play half court sets because they hadn't had much time to play together and it's how playoff basketball is played for the most part. Derrick just has to not try to do too much - if there' s been one good thing about him being hurt a lot of the year, it's that they've had to depend far more on set plays and they've improved a lot there. I don't think they need him to be in MVP mode all the time to win this thing.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    I don't think Rose is just sauntering up to be cautious. When you examine his gait it is clear that he still is in pain. It's more obvious when he slows down. I hope we hang in there until it improves.

  • Game on finally! :-)

    Short season and we sure have had major injuries but we showed the World that our team can win (at least in the regular season) without our MVP or at least win 66% of the games we have played which isn't bad taking 2 out of every 3 games! :-)

    I hope we destroy the 76ers for them saying they wanted to play us in the 1st round! Let's make them eat those words!

    The NYK vs Miami series looks to be very good and I hope it is a track meet and exhausts both those teams!

    The darn Pacers drew the Magicless team and will gain some momentum and confidence and hopefully they can break down the Heat and hopefully have Wade/Lebron/Bosh hobblings a little for us and we can be healthy with Rose and Hamilton in their groove as well as the rest of our starters and bench!

    I feel we have a very great chance to win it all this year and shouldn't think otherwise! Much of the heart of a champ is being confident and backing that up! We have had the best record in the regular season and had major injury problems both years so we can and should win it all! :-)

    GO BULLS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I can't wait till the playoffs begin on Saturday!!! It's time to seperate the men from the boys.

    The Bulls fans should be concerned. Derrick Rose looks average out on the court. The bench depth won't matter much in the playoffs like it did in the regular season. Usually you want your best players playing 40+ minutes out of 48 minutes in a game. I think the series will be much closer then you think. Doug Collins knows how to coach well. The Sixers are younger and on the rise somewhat.

    My prediction, I could easily see this series going to a game 6. So I'm going to say Bulls win in 6. Worst case scenario, Bulls win in 7.

  • Great analysis Doug. I agree with all your predictions except the end of the San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies showdown. I think the veterans Spurs will take out the Memphis Grizzlies. But these games will long be remembered. Bulls fans, you're in for a hell of a treat!

  • In reply to SlamDunk:

    Hopefully...

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    i did my own breakdown for the 3 east series starting on satuday and to give u a hint i think the heat may be upset by the knicks! come chck it out and if u wanna say somethign to me say it on the site! http://nbawagers.com/2012/04/sports-betting-strategy-for-saturdays-eastern-conference-series/

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