Game one frequently says it all, must win for both squads

Game one frequently says it all, must win for both squads

Of the course of NBA playoff history, when the home team wins game one of a series, they win the series 85% of the time. The number isn't even all that biased to lopsided round one matchups as the rule holds for 88% of the time in the second round as well, and even in further rounds never dips below 78.4%.

That means if the Bulls want a shot at this thing, they'd better take game one. Cleveland has been dominant at home since the all-star break which poses a real problem for Chicago. You see, the Bulls don't have much of a home court advantage.

Perhaps the past three seasons have taken their toll on Bulls fans. Perhaps the expensive tickets cater to an old corporate crowd less likely to go crazy. Perhaps the United Center's size simply makes it more difficult to fill with noise than other stadiums.

Whatever the reason is, I don't think the Bulls are going to go 3-0 at home against the Cavs. That means, in my opinion, the Bulls need to take two games in Cleveland. There's no better place to start with that task than game one.

The Cavs, as we all know, will be missing J.R. Smith for the first two games of the series. They'll be playing a very shallow roster or going deep into a bench that's been relatively unused recently. Either scenario should give the Bulls an edge.

I also like the fact the Bulls played up through Thursday. Some pundits are discussing how the lack of a week off might hurt Chicago in the long run as they might get too worn out, but frequently it feels like a week off messes with a team's timing and game readiness.

The Bulls still had three days off between the Milwaukee close out game and tonight's game against the Cavaliers which is an extended break when it comes to an NBA schedule. The Cavs have been sitting for eight days and could show some rust.

The importance of game one can't be overstated, and so Chicago had better be prepared. Chris Paul finally exercised his demons by defeating the Spurs. It's time for the Bulls to do the same thing with LeBron.

Bigs need to dominate

The Chicago Bulls will be bringing Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic up against Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, and Kendrick Perkins. This should be an area of total domination for Chicago on paper.

The problem is that I don't think it becomes an area of total domination on the hardwood, and if it doesn't then the Bulls will have little chance at this series. Noah has effectively become Kendrick Perkins with better passing while Mirotic struggled mightily in the playoffs.

Pau Gasol didn't have a great series against Milwaukee either though he did finish strong. The matchup of Pau against a legit big like Mozgov will be interesting to watch.

The Bulls were killed by Milwaukee's hustle and athleticism on defense despite their lack of size. I don't know that Perkins/Mozgov do the same thing in terms of forcing turnovers. In fact, Milwaukee may have been a great warm up for Chicago's offense as they were 3rd in defensive rating vs the Cavaliers 18th.

Can Rose hold his own with Irving?

Early in the season I would have said Rose needs to dominate Irving, but I don't think Chicago needs that any more. I think they need Rose to simply hold his own. He'll have a much easier time of it than against Michael Carter Williams that's for sure.

Williams was able to disrupt Rose with his athleticism, size, and length. Irving, not known as a defender, has plenty of athleticism but lacks size and length. When Derrick makes his way past Irving, the interior of the paint promises to be softer as well.

Milwuakee played with a heavy collapsing, athletic presence on the court. Outside of LeBron James and perhaps Tristan Thompson, the rest of the Cavaliers don't look like mobile guys that will come in and play superior help defense. This should allow a greater conversion percentage for Rose (and Butler for that matter)

I expect we see a more dangerous Derrick Rose because of it. Derrick also frequently seems to get up and play at his best against the best PGs in the league. After getting left off the all-star team for Irving, I think this match up becomes even more personal for him which could end up as good (if he is aggressively driving) or bad (if he tries to play the hero with the three ball) for Chicago.

In the first two games, the Cavs will likely play a whole bunch of Iman Shumpert on Rose which will give the Bulls the opportunity to match up someone else on Irving. The Bulls need to figure out the best way to exploit that match up.

Who does LeBron guard?

LeBron's the only really scary defender on the Cavaliers. My money says that he's on Jimmy Butler for most of his minutes. That gives Butler/LeBron a head to head match up which could go a long way towards determining the series.

A big problem for Butler will be that he makes his living at the free throw line and LeBron rarely fouls (or at least is rarely called for them). Butler's kind of a flopper and a flailer and won't likely get many of those calls against LeBron.

If Jimmy can stay anywhere close to LeBron in terms of output then this series will be awfully tough for Cleveland to win, but I just don't see how that happens. I don't think Jimmy's at a point where he can score with efficiency on LeBron if LeBron brings out his best defense and no one stops LeBron.

That doesn't doom the Bulls, but it puts the onus back on Derrick Rose. In 2010, the Bulls lacked a response when LeBron guarded Rose. I don't think the Cavs have that luxury this year as there's no one else to guard Butler. However, it does mean that Rose might have to score at will against Iman Shumpert, hopefully he's up to the task.

Do the Bulls X-Factors show up?

Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic struggled against Miami. These are the guys who can give the Bulls some really dangerous offensive punch and punish teams second units.

The real question is whether they can do it in the playoffs now? If the Bulls get good shooting from these two guys the pressure on the Cavs will be enormous. This is especially true given the lack of depth Cleveland will have for at least the first couple of games.

The Bulls are playing for Thibodeau's job

All the hoopla about Tom Thibodeau being fired is kind of silly because it really comes down to this. If the Bulls beat the Cavs then it will be virtually impossible for them to dump him.

This series means to much to Bulls fans.

There would be something amazingly cathartic about finally getting past the Cavs even if it resulted in a ECF loss to Washington or Atlanta.

If Thibodeau can't get past LeBron again then it's open season for management to dump him if they want. It will be easy to say that they need to go in another direction if this team projected as a potential top seed in the east can't get to the ECF.

The 50 wins wasn't all that impressive, and it's not hard to make the case that Jason Kidd outcoached Thibs in round one or that Thibs has not been a good playoff coach overall.

Whether you buy into those arguments or not is another factor, but the short story is this series determines Thibodeau's fate IMO.

I predict the Cavs in six

I'd love to pick the Bulls, but I just can't.

1: The better team usually wins and the Cavs were definitely the better team. It's hard to gauge if they still are with Kevin Love out, but Love wasn't having a great season for them, so I think they still are.

2: The team with the better player usually wins. That's obviously the Cavaliers as LeBron is still probably the best in the world, and the Bulls aren't packing a top five player that's in his neighborhood like some other teams in the west.

I will hope for the best, and I think the Bulls are probably have around a 40% shot at taking the series, so while I think the Cavs win, I think Chicago has a legitimate shot to prove me wrong.

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  • I hate to say it but I somehow think the Cavs will prevail. One would think that this Bulls team should be favored given Love out and JR out 2 games.

    It will be a defensive battle with Shumpert and Thompson in the lineup more.

    I do think the Bulls have the ability to win in 5 or 6 games. If Gasol and Mirotic play like they did all regular season, Bulls could roll big time. Remember, LeBron is a front runner and he tends to fold when times get tough throughout his career outside of a few moments.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Cavs in 5 or 6 games. This is too easy of a prediction. The Bulls just can't beat a LeBron led team come playoff time. Mosgov and Thompson will have their way down low. Love will barely be missed, and Gasol and Noah will have trouble defending and rebounding. Frankly I'm tired of bulls management not being able to get along with any coach that they hire.... It's just one big joke. Again, get it over with already... CAVS IN 5 OR 6 and good luck Thibs... a coach who deserves better and to be around better management.

  • I don't think game one is as important as any other game in the series for the Bulls. The fact is with this Bulls team half the battle is always mental. It's almost like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde assembled this team together because they have a split personality. You just never know which Bulls are gonna show up on any given night which is why you'd have to be a fool to bet on them. One day they'll convincingly beat the Warriors, and the next convincingly lose to the Magic. We even saw it in the Bucks series; One minute they're on the verge of a sweep, and the next they're looking like they'll be the 1st team in history to lose after being up 3-0, and suddenly dishes out one of the worse beatings in playoff history to end the series. This see-saw mentality the Bulls have is nerve wrecking but it's also the reason you can't never count them out. I think the Bulls are gonna lose the 1st game by a large margin all because of mental lapses then turn around and win the series in 7.

  • So many variables and unanswered question: How will the Cavs play without Love and Smith for the first 2 game? Will Butler be able to sustain offensive output while guarding Lebron most of the time? Who will be the backup to guard Lebron given that he has been posting up more and is likely to force it to the rim and draw fouls on Butler? If either Lebron and Shumpert will be guarding Rose and Butler, will the small forward punish Irving? Will Mosgov guard Gasol straight up or will they double-team? Will Gasol and Rose make as many turnovers against the Cavs as they did with the Bucks? Will Mirotic show up and play like he did in several big games during the season or has he hit the wall?

    All of these unknown variables point to coaching. And the one matchup the Bulls must absolutely win is the coaching matchup. My heart tells me Thibs and the Bulls can do it in 6 games. My head tells me that too many of those variables have to fall out in the Bulls favor when there has been no clear indication that the Bulls will consistently play in a way to clearly beat the Cavs. So my head tells me those variables will be left in the hands of Lebron and the Bulls don't have enough to match him.

    I hope I'm wrong. Regardless, I'm more excited to see this Bulls' playoff series than any one since the Bulls/Heat during Drose's mvp season. And my heart was hurt by the result in that one as well. Still I look forward to seeing how these variables play out tonight. Let's get it started.

  • I am keeping my expectations very low at this point so I don't get disappointed again by this team. I would agree with Doug. A team with the best player of the world, with 2 rings now and knows how to beat Thibs schemas is kind of setting yourself for disappointment if you think the Bulls can pull this off. The Bulls has the best chance they've had in over 5 years, but they still don't have a guy that resembles Michael Jordan on their team. The Cavs do, and for this reason, I think the chances are about 40/60 in favor of the Cavs. I hope the Bulls prove me wrong.

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    ehhh.......I am actually hoping the Cavs fall behind and Lebron quits like he always does...and ESPN and everyone makes an excuse for him "Kevin Love was out"

  • Why wouldn't you play a lineup of Shump, JR, LBJ, Iriving, and Moz/perk/thompson as often as possible? If you do that, you put shump on rose, JR on butler, and lbj "guards" noah.

    To me, you start taj in this series to prevent that lineup. Stay away from niko and noah.

  • In reply to pinkizdead:

    Blatt should be fired if he attempts to primarily cover Jimmy with JR Smith. Jimmy would murder him. Besides, that option is only available starting game three.

    I do agree with Taj starting, or at least getting a lot of minutes in this series. He's probably the only other Bull that can guard LeBron in the post and he's a credible offensive threat.

  • In reply to Tyler Soze:

    Pretty sure that we've tried Taj on Lebron for very short stretches in the past, and it hasn't worked at all. When it comes to Lebron, Its Jimmy or Bust, and Thibs should take Jimmy out whenever Lebron is out to get some rest. Although even Lebron played something like 42 mpg against the Celts.

  • The Bulls have a good chance to take the series from Cleveland, probably in 6 or 7 games. It doesn't really matter, however, because neither the Bulls or Cavs are getting past Washington.

  • This team is too woefully inconsistent to beat a LeBron team or any other really good team. They either need the front court to dominate Cleveland's or for Rose to out-play Irving, possibly both. I don't think either happens. If Gasol is truly the all-star some claim he is, he will dominate a journeyman like Mozgov but I think we see the truth about Gasol, he's just a guy, not a difference-maker.

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    In reply to Roman F:

    Roman I honestly think you are wrong.....this Rose vs Irving match up is sooo overblown did anyone actually watch the games Rose played in against Cleveland? he destroyed Irving and locked him up on D only time Irving went off is when Rose went to the bench on minutes Restriction...... is this team inconsistent? yeah so what..... we just need our bigs to play with some damn muscle!

  • In reply to Ron Webb:

    Its not overblown at all because of what you noted. The Bulls need Rose to dominate Irving on both ends to win. Irving is an extremely streaky/volume scorer, can Rose continue to keep him in check, as he has shown that he can in the past.

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    The Cavs are a deeper team than most people give them credit for. Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, and James Jones gives the Cavs solid playoff tested vets who can make an impact for them. The loss of J.R. Smith is huge as he gives the Cavs a 3rd offensive option, is athletic enough to play man on man defense, and quick enough to cheat on the passing lanes.

    With that out of the way this is the perfect team for the Bulls to beat in a 7 game series. All season long the Bulls have struggled against young, quick, athletic teams, and play well against veteran teams which rely on a half court set offense.

    I expect to see LeBron regulated to a passer, and a 3 pt shooter for most of the game, and attempt to draw fouls, get to the line, and get our bigs into foul trouble during the later parts of the game. I expect the Cavs to rotate Kyrie and LeBron in and out of the lineup and Irving will be their main offensive threat. Tristan Thompson is the man I worry about most as a Bulls fan. He seems to play well against Taj, Jo, and the Bulls frontline and keeping him off of the boards is crucial for the Bulls. Other than that James Jones, and Mike Miller pose the same 3 pt threat as the Bulls Niko Mirotic, and Mike Dunleavy does.

    Doug's right in stating how much the Bulls should win the 1st game. If the Bulls should win tonight, you'll notice tomorrow how everyone who is predicting the Cavs in 6 will change their minds and favor the Bulls. The Bulls must make a statement tonight. Someone off of the Bulls bench has to have a big game. Snell or Niko with their 3 point shooting, or Taj with his dominant low post play. If the Bulls make a statement tonight, they can win the series in 5 gms. The longer the series goes the more it begins to favor the well rested team.

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I believe you men relegated.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I believe you mean "mean." Some of us knew what he meant.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Clearly we all knew what he meant, and unlike yours, my comment was meant to be taken in jest, which I'm fairly certain everyone who read it understood. Since we all know that you have a personal agenda/animus, feel free to correct my typo's anytime that you can spare a moment from scouring the internet trying to find more man made up stats that support your love affair with the SOL. You seem to not understand that this is supposed to be fun, a respite from everyday life, not a replay of high school, although for some/most of us that was mostly fun too.

    Since you continue to chose to be disagreeable just to be disagreeable, may I point out the SI's series preview that noted that the SOL averaged only 14 ppg on 36% shooting against the Cav's in the regular season. Likely in 2 games against Varejao and 2 games against Mozgov, so perhaps you can find a way to spin those numbers into something that they are not.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    There is absolutely no way that your comment could be construed as humor. You were basically correcting a mistake. Why you chose to do this to a fellow blogger on a basketball board is a mystery known only to you.

    The real joke is that you made a spelling error and a grammatical error in one simple five word sentence while trying to demonstrate how smart you are to another person.

    By the way, I do not have a "love affair" with Gasol. He is not even my favorite Bull. I just don't care for people who denigrate one of our better players on a nightly basis just to show how "smart" and "funny" he is when, in fact, he is neither. I am sure our African-American bloggers were tickled when you called Jared Dudley a "mulatto Pillsbury doughboy" on April 27th.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Obviously, anyone with even half a functioning brain cell(clearly you don't qualify) knows that my error was nothing more than an obvious typo (I hit send before I looked at what I had typed) rather than a spelling and grammatical error that I knowingly made because I'm too stupid to know any better. If you actually believe your own bullshit, then clearly it is you that are too stupid to know any better. Again, glad to compare CV's or sheepskins with you anytime anywhere, but the local Y would be best, why not kill 2 birds with one stone.

    By the way, it is not denigrating when its true. At this point, most everybody that comments on this site(including our host on multiple occasions) or on any other site about the Bulls has made the exact same points about the SOL as I have, if only in slightly less colorful fashion. Sorry that my particular sense of humor upsets your delicate little sensitivities(being hyper PC and looking to play the part of the aggrieved victim usually does that to a person)

    Can everybody on the planet be wrong because you continue to insist that it isn't so in a non stop vain effort to prove how smart you are just by being contrarian. Hey, at least your not trying to be funny, because you clearly have one heck of a sense of humor.

    Also, if you're so good at discerning another person's intent without knowing them or even having met them, you should consider a job in law enforcement. I hear that they are always looking for a few arrogant bastards to work in the in the railroading department as well as the overturned conviction department. After all, just like possession, intent is 9/10's of the law.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    You two crack me up lol. We're all rooting for the same team and the same outcome. Let it rest.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Not according to the not so grand ayatollah Hgarbellballa, if you deign to disagree with his opinions(about basketball, we're talking basketball here, or is it just practice) you are committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad Gasol and are not worthy of being a Bulls fan, even if you have either watched or listened to nearly every game over the past 45+ years.

    In fact the NSA has warned the NBA that Hgarbellballa has issued a fatwa calling for all loyal radical Gasolists(so far there appear to be only too(sic, oops there goes another one of those typos, or maybe I just don't know the difference between the number 2 and the word too, I'm just 2 stupid) of them) to wage Jihad against all those who refuse to convert to radical Gasolism, if they refuse to pay a fine, or leave the country. Beheading is also an option if the debate becomes too spirited for Hgarbellballa's delicate little sensitivities. I believe that he contracts that work out to Jihadi John, wouldn't want to actually get his hand dirty, it's much easier being an anonymous internet terrorist(coward).

    Hey Jmax, at least you have a sense of humor, unlike some people around here, you know the ones who think that they are mind readers.

  • I wonder if the NBA has Joey Crawford or Scott Foster doing this game tonight.

  • Small sample size but the Bulls did win Game #1 in each of their last 2 series against Lebron (2011 and 2013), part of that 15% you write about Doug.

  • More than anything, I'm hoping for a great series, something along the lines of the Bulls/Celtics in 2009, or was it 08.

    We can only hope to see basketball played at the level that it was in the Spurs/Clippers series, especially game 7. Can't say this Bulls team has ever played at that level, the Cav's likely haven't either since this is their first year together.

    I don't care much for the Clippers, kind of primadonna's and crybabies. I didn't want the Spurs to win a 6th title or back to back even though I found myself rooting for them hard when push came to shove. However, that truly was a series where neither team deserved to lose and should not have been a first round series.

  • Interesting that most experts on the media are already made up on Cavs being on the finals against the Warriors. And I don't blame them. However, this really makes me mad and upset and hoping for the Bulls to surprise the experts.

  • Finally, while I agree with you about the obvious importance of game one, don't you think that the Bulls almost have to take advantage of the situation and win both of the first 2 games to win the series.

    If they don't and they lose one home game(as you suspect that they might), then they have to win game 5 or game 7 in Cleveland, which are probably the hardest games for road teams to win, although the Spurs just did and still lost the series because they couldn't TCB at home.

  • It would be very Bullsian to dominate the Bucks in Game 6 and get too full of themselves off that after winning nothing really and coming out against the Cavs in Game 1 with a lackluster effort, and getting embarrassed by LeBron again. I hope not. Game 1 is my pick for what could be a blowout. I see the Cavs winning because I just can't imagine this Bulls team getting over LeBron, I'm betting we'll have to rely on another team to do that after us.

  • A lot of good analysis in the thread here. I also have Cavs in 6 but obviously I'd love for the Bulls to pummel them. There are lots of reasons to predict a Cavs win in the series and probably just as many good arguments to pick Chicago. The reason I'm picking Cleveland is that there are so many unknowns for both teams the absolute only thing we can be 100% absolutely sure about is that Lebron is gonna be Lebron.

    Gotta take slight issue with the importance of game 1 theory. The Bulls history in the playoffs against Lebron pretty much confirms the opposite. 3 tries, 3 game 1 wins for the Bulls, 3 series losses. Thus far game 1 hasn't meant jack.

  • If Blatt is going to play LeBron at the 4, Thibs can't simply put Noah in there because that's the rotation when Noah is the worst possible match-up. Taj could defend him better and do it close to the basket, or put Niko in there and the Cavs have no one to really defend him. Thibs is not utilizing his depth by sticking to his rotation, he's not countering Blatt's move (or maybe LeBron's the real coach).

  • Go Bulls! It was an exciting win. Most exciting was Jimmy Butler. He truly is the star player the Bulls were looking for to play next to Rose, only now he's probably the better player.

    By halftime I always thought the Cavs would somehow win it. I thought Cleveland's players were more likely to close it out than Chicago's players, namely LeBron and Kyrie. Kyrie is a bad man. LeBron didn't have a great game, actually went 1 for 8 at one point, had 6 total turnovers, and gave the Bulls a chance to win.

    Mozgov is obviously a physically imposing force but he's also pretty limited. I thought Gasol clearly won that match-up the way he needed to for the Bulls, and this was at least one game where I thought Pau was a difference-maker, one of the reasons you win a game. If that's all we get from him this series, that is already not bad, and we could very well get a lot more.

    Noah has to get the hell out of there. Noah was left alone on his way to the basket and still couldn't finish a perfect setup from Rose because he can't jump or move. It shows on defense where I do not see anyone resembling the DPOY. Noah should be Gasol's backup, and that is all.

    Problem is, I don't know that we have a PF. Taj had kind of a shit game himself, part of the group that got stomped in the second quarter. Something is wrong with Niko if he's playing only 2 minutes, because he's easily the best PF on the team. Taj has been on my shit list all year but I think he usually plays better than he did, and he picked it up in the second half.

    Rose takes a lot of stupid shots IMO and I find him increasingly annoying. He nailed a lot of them, I won't take that away, and the mid-range shots don't bother me near as much as the threes but he needs to attack, and firing up contested shots early in the shot clock is not attacking. He needs to get to the paint early, save those shots for later in the set. He did that later in the game, driving and kicking to the open guy.

    Brooks is a little dynamo. I'm impressed with how he hustles. Needs to play with Rose. Meanwhile, Hinrich is horseshit in a basketball uniform and is nothing more than the third PG. Much rather see Snell out there.

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