The Playoffs are upon us. Finally. At the end of the shortened season, the Bulls find themselves the number one team in the league with home court advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight year. Despite a series of injuries to Derrick Rose (missed 27 games), Luol Deng and other players, the Bulls finished the season with a league high 50 wins, which calculates to a .758 winning percentage, which is roughly the same as last season at .756.
The Bulls come into the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, a strong defensive team that presents an interesting matchup. For much of the regular season the 6ers led the league in Opponents Points per Game, but ended the season 3rd overall, holding teams to an average of 89.4 points per game trailing only to the Boston Celtics and, of course, the Bulls.
Both teams are very well coached as Doug Collins drew quite a bit of interest for the Coach of the Year award when the team started hot. Both teams also pride themselves on their deep benches and their “team-first” mentality. The biggest difference is Philadelphia’s lack of a super-star caliber player named Derrick Rose.
With Rose back in the picture, the Bulls feel confident that they can make a title run. Not that the Bulls do not respect the 76ers, they just see them as part of the path that leads them to and through the Heat to the Finals.
However, the 76ers did beat the Bulls badly on February 1, dominating the game 98-82. The Bulls came back to beat Philadelphia 96-91 on March 4, and 89-80 on March 17.
The 76ers have a plethora of weapons including first time All-Star Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes, former Bull Elton Brand, and sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams, who leads the team in scoring with 14.9 ppg.
Recently, Chicago native and second year 76er, Evan Turner claimed that he wanted to face the Bulls first round as opposed to the Heat. “It means we’re dodging the tougher team. That’s what I think. … I think we’ll be able to compete well against Chicago and have an opportunity to win the series.”
Of course, the Bulls hear these types of comments and will inevitably use them as fuel. Thus, be prepared for the Bulls to take this first round very seriously. It will be a scrappy series and the team that can be better on the rebounding and defensive end will come out on top.
The 76ers have lately been discredited as they finished the season weakly, and will be looking to use the underdog label to their advantage. They will do their best to smother Derrick and make other players make plays. Fortunately for the Bulls, Deng, CJ Watson, John Lucas and even Carlos Boozer among other players have stepped up big time in Derrick’s absence this season.
The Bulls are primed to make a deep run into this year’s Playoffs. With another year of experience under Tom Thibodeau, the reigning MVP back and healthy, and the league’s best defense, and rebounding, anything short of title number 7 will be a disappointment for everyone in the Bulls organization as well as the fans. I expect to see the Bulls win in 5 games.