This is obviously the series that everyone is looking forward to. It is believed by many to be the series that determines who will be representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals. There are great storylines everywhere in this series. LeBron trying to bring his hometown its first championship in 40 years, the rise of Jimmy Butler from role player to superstar, Rose playing in his first playoff games since 2011; showing us what he has left after multiple injuries, or even Pau Gasol, who was thought to be way past being an essential piece to a championship team, but is easily the most important player on the team now. However, the question is: Which of these storylines will have an ending worth telling?
The Cavs were struggling early on this year, but made some great moves in the middle of the season which has changed them from an average team to a team that could take the Eastern Conference. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert look reborn after leaving New York, and Timofy Mozgof has literally become the most important player on the team with the best +/-. The Cavs are an athletic team and they try to use that as an advantage every time down the floor. On offense at times they are unstoppable when they move the ball. On defense though, without Mozgof in, it can get real ugly real quick.
For The Bulls this year, we honestly don’t know what to expect. The playoffs so far this season have been the only time the Bulls have had everyone healthy. They have so many players capable of taking over games if needed that it’s ridiculous. Whether it’s Jimmy G Buckets hitting a dagger 3, Mirotic dropping 20 in the 4th, Rose hitting a mean crossover pull up jumper at midrange, or even players like Etuwan Moore; the Bulls seem to always have someone willing to step up and make the big shots when it counts. The defense Chicago is normally known hasn’t been up to their standards of the past years, but the team still has the pieces to lock down when they absolutely need them to.
PG: K. Irving vs D. Rose
SG: J. Butler vs JR. Smith
SF: M. Dunleavy vs L. James
PF: P. Gasol vs T. Thompson
C: J. Noah vs T. Mozgof
It will be interesting how things go down the stretch for the Cavs and how they choose to run their offense. Near the end of games it gets stagnant and becomes a whole lot of ISOs which can be bad if the Bulls play it right. The Cavs need to keep the pick & rolls going to make the defense pay attention to the other guys. If you don’t keep them on their toes and run a lot of ISOs, then the Cavs will end up getting burned by it.
This series will be mainly determined by not the best player in the world, but the best two point guards. If Rose ever outplays Kyrie in a game, the Cavs will lose plain and simple. If Rose beats Kyrie, this series will end quickly. Kyrie needs to score at least 25-30 for his team to win especially with Kevin Love out for the entire playoffs.
Jimmy Butler by the stats is easily the best defender in the NBA to put on LeBron but the part that should worry the Bulls is if he can lockdown on the defensive end while still being able to drop 20 points on the offensive end.
The Cavs are coming in hurt. Kevin Love is out and even though he has been far from the “best power forward in the league” many people thought him to be before; the team relies on the spacing he gives them because defenses still can’t leave him open.
LeBron just needs to keep everyone involved and Mozgof needs to be in the game as much as possible. Tristan Thompson is the X factor in this series. If he can come into the starting lineup and prove to be a valuable asset against starters, it will be a huge boost in favor of Cleveland.
Bulls win the series 4-2. The Bulls are coming at full throttle and the battered Cavs will have a lot of problems keeping up. JR Smith has potentially doomed another one of his teams making a stupid decision that has forced him out of 2 games. Derrick Rose needs to shine and show us the Rose we remember from his MVP season, because if he can win his matchup, the Cavs will have no chance of winning this series. Oh and the Noah versus LeBron, and Noah versus Cleveland rivalries should be fun.
To see Noah’s thoughts on Cleveland click below.