There’s a lot of basketball left to be played in the 2015 NBA Playoffs, but it already feels like a mini-championship is happening in the semifinals, with the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Chicago Bulls.
The big story going into this series will be how the Cavs suddenly look vulnerable after losing Kevin Love for the postseason due to a shoulder injury. Additionally, J.R. Smith will miss the first two games of the series with a suspension incurred from the Celtics series. This now gives Chicago a better chance to win against Cleveland, after losing three out of four regular season games to their bitter in-division rivals.
But exactly how good of a chance does the Bulls have of finally getting past their tormentor, LeBron James, in the East? Let’s look at both teams’ advantages and disadvantages, before coming to a consensus on who can win this thing.
How Chicago can win
There’s no better way to go into a new playoff series than by capping your last one off with a 54-point demolishing. Chicago’s 120-66 road victory over the Milwaukee Bucks showed just how dominant they can be ‘when on.’
This was a team effort that showcased the tremendous depth of the Bulls, which is exactly why they can beat Cleveland. There’s no deeper frontcourt in the league since they boast Joakim Noah at center, along with Pau Gasol (PF/C), Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic all logging power forward minutes. This front court is so good that Mirotic, who’s at times looked like the most talented out of this group, doesn’t get the minutes that he deserves.
Then you come to the back court, where Derrick Rose mans the point and All-Star Jimmy Butler handles the shooting guard duties. Previously thought to be lost for the year, Rose came back from another knee injury and has at times looked like his former league MVP self. As for Butler, he’s been the offensive leader of this team, averaging 26.6 PPG against the Bucks. Throw in veteran and dead-eye three-point shooter Mike Dunleavy at small forward, and you have one very complete team that could wear the Cavs out.
Why Chicago will lose
Despite a myriad of talent at multiple positions, Chicago is one of the more-inconsistent teams in the NBA. A lot of this stems from the fact that the Bulls rely so much on Butler and Rose to generate offense; so when they’re off, Chicago is off. This much was clear from the Bucks’ Game 5 victory in Chicago, where Rose and Butler shot a combined 10-for-41, losing to a team that they should have waxed.
The inevitable victory did finally come in Milwaukee, but the guards’ shooting struggles, combined with the Bulls’ inability to find a good minutes rotation for their big men, made this a longer series than it needed to be. If the same problems persist, expect Chicago to go down in 6 games to Cleveland.
How Cleveland can win
Kyrie Irving seems to be emerging as a true superstar, as he showed in the Boston series by hitting big shot after shot. Irving made 48% from thee-point range against the Celtics while averaging 23.3 PPG. And let’s not forget that he’s joined by the best player in the game in James. LeBron averaged a ‘quiet’ 27 points in the first round, while playing in cruise control at certain points.
There are certainly some good role players on this squad too, with Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson both providing great minutes in the front court, and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith doing damage at the shooting guard position.
Why Cleveland will lose
Depth will be the biggest dilemma for Cleveland, especially with Smith out for the first two games. Without Love on the floor, Mozgov and Thompson will play extended minutes while aged veterans Kendrick Perkins and Shawn Marion may even be called upon more. Reserve guards James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova will be on the floor too, which doesn’t exactly match the overall talent that Chicago puts out there.
Final Prediction: Cavs in 7 Games
Regardless of their bench depth, Cleveland will have a rested LeBron and Irving playing 40+ minutes a game, which is mainly what they need to win what will be a close series. Be sure to catch Game 1 of this series at Monday at 7:00pm EST, and don’t forget to do your Cavs vs Bulls betting at GTBets.eu.