The Chicago Bulls will be heading into Cleveland to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday (2:00 PM, CST) on ABC where they will face a newly rejuvenated team. This will be James’ and Shaquille O’Neal’s first game back. Chicago is heading into this series with momentum on their side upon finishing the regular season strong. However, the Cavs maintain the homecourt advantage and boast a 61-win regular season.
The depth for Cleveland looks as follows:
SG- Anthony Parker, Delonte West
SF- LeBron James, Jamario Moon
PF- Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson, Leon Powe
C- Shaquille O’Neal, Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
The Cavaliers have a flat-out stacked team. They have the option to play small-ball all the way up to incredibly large ball, featuring a line-up with Big Z and Shaq. The Cavs can stretch the floor with Antawn Jamison at the 4-spot, or by having Boobie Gibson in at guard. Or Mike Brown can elect to use a defensively sound lineup with Anderson Varejao and Anthony Parker (to defend Derrick Rose or Kirk Hinrich). In addition to that, what Cleveland has now that they once lacked in their 2007 run to the Finals, all the way up through their E.C.F. loss a year ago to Orlando, is youth and athleticism. Of course, they have always had LeBron James but now the Cavs can rely on other players to step up and draw fouls to alleviate pressure in their offensive – i.e. Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, and Antawn Jamison. Not to mention the big fella, Shaq, who the Bulls are just hoping will be out-of-sync after being out for nearly a month.
As for Chicago’s depth:
SG- Kirk Hinrich, Ronald Murray
SF- Luol Deng, James Johnson
PF- Taj Gibson, Hakim Warrick
C- Joakim Noah, Brad Miller
We should expect to see a great series from Derrick Rose. None of the Cavs’ perimeter defenders can hold him down. Noah, Taj, and Brad Miller will have a tough time against the Cavaliers stacked and versitile front court – they need to avoid getting bullied down-low by seeking to push the ball in transition. Even on made buckets, the Bulls are going to need to try to get out running in transition to stop Cleveland from seizing momentum in Games 1 and 2 at home. The key match-up in this series will be Luol Deng vs. LeBron James. Obviously, we cannot expect Deng to go toe-to-toe and do all of the things that LeBron can do for his team. But if somehow Chicago can limit good looks for ‘Bron and get Deng going by scoring the ball, I believe the Bulls will be a scary team for the Cavs in this first round series.
This is an exciting time for the fans of Chicago right now, as the Bulls are going to get an opportunity to de-throne, so to speak, the man who is hailed as “King James.” His team are expected by many to simply glide their way through the Eastern Conference into the NBA Finals. On Saturday, the Bulls have a chance to open a lot of eyes.