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The Chicago Bulls enter their 2011 NBA Playoffs first-round series against the Indiana Pacers as heavy favorites to win, according to the sports betting site Bodog. The Bulls clinched home-court advantage throughout the postseason, while the Pacers are the worst team in the playoffs, with a record of 37-45. The Bulls won three of the four games in the regular season against the Pacers, so the favorite tag is justified.
Bodog lists the Bulls' odds at 1/35, and the Pacers' line at 20/1. Like we said, heavy favorites. The Bulls' moneyline is therefore -3500, while the Pacers' is +2000. Vegas also expects it to be a short series: the over/under for games is 5.5. Chicago has 2/1 odds to sweep, and just 12/1 odds to win in seven games.
The Bulls are also among the favorites to win the 2011 NBA title. At 7/2 odds, only the Lakers and Heat are higher. If you're really in the mood for a longshot, the Pacers' odds to win the title are 250/1.
Be sure to follow our Bulls vs. Pacers hub.
The Chicago Bulls hope to make quick work of the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, and they'll get an opportunity to burst out of the gate with the league's first postseason game. The Bulls, who on Wednesday claimed the top record in the NBA, host the Pacers Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.
If Chicago sweeps, the series could be over as soon as a week from Saturday. But Indiana will be pressing to stretch it out and get back to Chicago for a Game 5 on April 26.
Here's the full schedule:
Game 1: Sat., April 16 in Chicago, 1 p.m ET, ESPN
Game 2: Mon., April 18 in Chicago, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3: Thu., April 21 in Indiana, TBD, NBA TV
Game 4: Sat., April 23 in Indiana, TBD, TNT
Game 5: Tue., April 26 in Chicago (if needed)
Game 6: Thu., April 28 in Indiana (if needed)
Game 7: Sat., April 30 in Chicago (if needed)
Be sure to check out our Bulls vs. Pacers preview.
The Chicago Bulls will open their NBA playoff schedule by hosting the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their series on Saturday, April 16, at 1 p.m. ET at the United Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and local cable partners of the teams. It will be the first game of the 2011 NBA Playoffs; two other East series kick off on Saturday, and at least one West series should as well. (None of the West's four playoff series are yet set.)
The rest of the series schedule has yet to be announced, but expect 1-2 days of rest between games. Because it begins on Saturday and the Bulls are such heavy favorites, the Chicago-Indiana series has the greatest likelihood of ending earlier than any other first-round series.
The Chicago Bulls are obviously overwhelming favorites against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. But based on a log5 analysis of the series matchup, using regular season point differential (historically the best indicator of postseason performance) as the foundation, this series could get ugly quickly.
That's right: log5 says the Bulls have a 96 percent probability of winning the series, and better than a 70 percent probability of winning it in four or five games. No series in the first round is this likely to end in a sweep or 4-1 decision based on the log5 method.
Consider it another way: according to the method, the Bulls are seven times as likely to sweep Indiana than the Pacers are to win the series period. The Bulls are almost twice as likely to sweep the Pacers as the Pacers are likely to win just two games.
These are long, long odds.
As the Chicago Bulls prepare for the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the series figures to be a defensive struggle of sorts. The Bulls will end the regular season with the NBA's top defense at right around 1.00 point per possession allowed; with one game remaining, the Pacers sit at No. 12 in the league at 1.06 points per possession. There's obviously a huge difference between tops and 12th, but each of these teams are in the playoffs because of defense.
That's because their offenses aren't spectacular. Chicago currently ranks No. 11 in offense (1.08 points per possession) thanks to a late-season bump; the Bulls were below league average as recent as a month ago. Indiana hasn't seen a bump -- the Pacers are a bad No. 23 in points per possession at 1.05. The team's pace masks that deficiency; because Indiana plays an up-tempo style (No. 6 in pace), the Pacers are No. 11 in raw points per game. But that's more because Indiana gets a tons of shots up per game, not because they are anything like good on offense.
There's really no specific statistical category in which Indiana can figure to make up much ground. The Pacers have a strong shot defense (No. 8), but the Bulls shoot pretty well (No. 13). Chicago is turnover-prone (No. 18 in turnover rate), but the Pacers are an abysmal No. 27 in turnover creation. The Pacers draw fouls well (No. 9), but Chicago is solid at avoiding giving up free throws (No. 12).
The Bulls will absolutely kill the Pacers in one specific area, a pretty important one: Indiana is No. 23 in the NBA in shooting, with a .487 effective field goal percentage. Chicago has the league's top shot defense, giving up .463 eFG% to opponents. Unless the Pacers come up with some improbable hot spells, they'll struggle hard to score in this series.
For more on this series, keep it locked on our Bulls Vs. Pacers section.
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.
Follow our Bulls Vs. Pacers, NBA Playoffs section for all things Bulls Vs. Pacers. For more on the Bulls' playoff run, check out Blog-a-Bull and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Pacers' first playoff berth since 2006, visit Indy Cornrows and SB Nation Indiana.