The Cleveland Cavaliers finished their 4-game sweep, making quick work of the feisty Boston Celtics. The bad news, Kevin Love is going to miss some action, anywhere between a couple of weeks and the league average for a dislocated shoulder, 26 games (according to Pro Basketball Talk). The good news, their likely opponent in the next round is still playing in their first series, which closes the gap on Love’s return.
The Chicago Bulls have been forced into plenty of turnovers, something the Milwaukee Bucks led the NBA in and it shows. The Bulls have been sloppy, lackadaisical, and just maybe they’re looking past the Bucks a little bit. Well, even committing 28 turnovers the other night, they nearly gutted out a road win for the sweep. Except, the Bucks picked on Derrick Rose for the final play of the game, with one second remaining on an inbound pass. By the way, heads up timeout by Jason Kidd to advance the ball after forcing a turnover on Rose. In conclusion, the home Bucks forced that many turnovers and only escaped with a basket at the buzzer, exciting but nothing to really hinder the red and black.
That play has the Bulls returning home, where they will likely close out Milwaukee. Then it’s another collision between LeBron James and the Bulls, dating back to the King’s Miami days. That’s been the hurdle for the Windy City, but they have a legitimate shot at dethroning the king of the east this time around. Especially, with an inexperienced supporting cast, and an injured Love. When you think about, not only is this the healthiest Bulls’ team this season, but in the last few years even.
Any time that Love misses in the next round will further expose the youthful Cavaliers. James can’t be stopped by any opponent, but you can contain what his teammates do. Kyrie Irving hasn’t been impressive against the Bulls, well, when Rose is in the lineup. The point guard matchup has gone to Rose when they go head-to-head. The thing that held the Bulls back in the past, was their lack of scoring, but they have that now. They have sacrificed some of their elite defense, still top-10, but you can tell it isn’t as formidable.
That’s the slight gamble Chicago took to add more firepower, and I think they have the edge on the Cavs on both ends of the floor. Cleveland isn’t as tough physically, nor mentally. Tom Thibodeau won Coach of the Year for a reason. The same goes for Rose winning a MVP award, and Joakim Noah winning a Defensive Player of the Year. Jimmy Butler is likely winning Most Improved Player of the Year, and Pau Gasol led the league in double-doubles.
The tables looked turned in the east, and despite popular belief, I consider the Bulls to be the favorites in that series. This is the real Eastern Conference Finals to me. The next series might not be a welcome mat by any means, but the Bulls have the best roster in the conference and the Cavs have LeBron and a pair of all-stars. I don’t think the Atlanta Hawks or Washington Wizards can hang in the actual ECF.