The Chicago Bulls are the No. 1 seed in the East bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, and will face those heroic No. 8 Indiana Pacers in the first round. While this hardly looks like a potential upset, neither did Celtics-Hawks in 2008, and that turned into a seven-game doozy. Is there any potential for that here? We dig into that an other predictions below.
No chance. The Pacers peeled off one win against the Bulls during the season, a March battle during which Chicago's interior defense completely conceded and Indiana earned a win despite Derrick Rose blasting off for 42 points (18 of them at the line). The game was an up-tempo, high-scoring affair, something Chicago usually avoids. The Bulls have an incredible defense, and in the teams' three other meetings held Indiana below the 90-point mark.
Derrick Rose has been anointed, of course, so there's little need for further tribute in a series like this. If national dap will come for anyone in this series, it will be for a Pacer. Tyler Hansbrough has quietly had a remarkable turnaround late this season; since the All-Star break he is averaging 15 points and almost seven rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting. A strong effort against the Bulls' frontcourt of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah could expand his growing notoriety as a pretty good pro.
Paul George is another young Pacer who needs some shine on his fantastically odd game.
HINTS FOR THE FUTURE
With the Bulls incredibly likely to move on, the Orlando Magic or Atlanta Hawks await. The Magic will be overwhelming favorites; they, of course, feature a certain Dwight Howard, who is one of few players to go ballistic on Chicago this season. Howard dropped 40 on the Bulls earlier this season, and the Pacers' frontcourt tandem of Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert could pressure-test Boozer and Noah a bit. Hansbrough went off for 27 in Indiana's March win over Chicago, but Boozer missed that game. If Hibbert and Hansbrough can get loose a couple times, Dwight's eyes might get real big. And Tom Thibodeau may turn toward Omer Asik, the Turkish reserve rookie who is quickly becoming a credible NBA defender.
MAINSTREAM MEME ALERT
If Rose scores as easily as I expect he will, prepare for the media onslaught about how little time for suckers Rose has in this postseason, and how laser-focused he is on the opponents to come. (Of course, Rose's vacant expressions and shy demeanor could be simply mistaken for laser focus.) This will be an especially potent force if the Heat or Celtics at all struggle against the Sixers and Knicks.
Bulls in 4. Thibodeau with time to prepare and gameplan? Are you kidding me? Rose is by far the best player in the series, and frankly, the Bulls may have four of the best five players here (with forgotten man Danny Granger slipping in behind Rose, Noah, Luol Deng and Boozer). This series should almost certainly be over in five, but I'll predict four.
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