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This was a game where the Bulls probably played their worst 44 minutes of the season, and when they were down by 10 late after a three point play by Tyler Hansbrough, it seemed like it was over.
However, when Derrick Rose got fouled hard by Hansbrough on the other end of the floor, something snapped in the otherwise emotionless Luol Deng, who shoved Hansbrough and received a technical foul. As out of character as that was for Deng—this was even more out of character: He started shouting and yelling, waving his arms up and down to pump up the crowd. It was an emotion the fans have never seen out of Deng, and it sparked a huge run from the Bulls who took their first lead of the game at 102-99 on a Kyle Korver three pointer.
This was a game that was largely dominated by Philadelphia in the first and fourth quarter, but the Miami Heat had the better middle and were simply too much for Philadelphia.
The Heat used an excellent performance from power forward Chris Bosh to beat the Sixers, who used every ounce of power they had to beat the Heat. This is going to be a tough series for Philadelphia, who has a lot of depth but really no superstar power like the Heat have. I think the Sixers could steal a game or maybe two at home, but this first game indicated Miami’s superiority.
This was a very close game, and it was almost expected that way. I think the Celtics are the far better team, but they certainly didn’t play like it on Sunday. Down by one with less than 30 seconds remaining, Ray Allen hit a clutch three pointer (as he usually does) to put the Celtics up by two points.
With no timeouts, the Knicks had to push the ball up the court, and they made a huge mistake by giving the ball to Carmelo Anthony, who was not having a good game at all. Anthony chucked up his 13th brick of the game, trying to be the hero by hitting a three at the end when he had plenty of time to drive the lane.
This was an unimpressive finish for the Knicks, who should have won the game easily, but made dumb coaching mistakes. We will see how they correct it for game two.
It’s interesting, because no one thought the Hawks really had a chance here even though they dominated the season series against the Magic, and they continued on with that on Saturday.
Atlanta shocked the Magic on their own court and took game one, and it appears they have the firepower to beat Orlando in a series.
Some Atlanta players, namely Al Horford said that Jameer Nelson’s proclamation of “We’ll see you in round two” to Derrick Rose after the Bulls beat Orlando in a late regular season game was motivation for them.
Second round games will begin Monday night.
The Chicago Bulls played about 44 minutes of horrendous basketball, and they still came away with the victory.
With less than half of the quarter remaining, the Bulls found themselves down by ten points on their home floor against a completely over-matched Indiana Pacers team, and something clicked. Derrick Rose had a career playoff high in points, many of which came from the free throw line as the Bulls pulled ahead of the Indiana Pacers with a huge run late in the game.
After a bad first half, Danny Granger was absolutely unstoppable for the Pacers in the second half and really was key for their run, but not to be out done was power forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had his mid-range jumper working. Hansbrough, the former NCAA player of the year and National Champion at North Carolina, has really come on in the second half of the season for Indiana, and is one of the more intriguing players in the league right now. He was absolutely shredding the net from about 15-18 feet, and was virtually unstoppable.
For the Bulls, it was the worst 44 minutes of the season that I have seen, and I can say that with confidence. The Bulls were very fortunate for their offensive rebounding and the fact that Derrick Rose basically lived on the free throw line, because their deficit should have been much larger than it was.
Rose was ice cold from three-point range, and between he and starter Keith Bogans, they were 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. Still, the Bulls had two timely three point shots from Luol Deng, and as usual, Kyle Korver who hit the three that gave the Bulls their first lead in the game.
The Bulls need to find a way to harness the momentum they had at the end of this game, because the Pacers are going to be ticked off for their next game, and they have nothing to lose at this point. They have an interim head coach, and a team that barely scratched into the playoffs anyway—those teams can sometimes be the toughest to beat.
This series will resume on Monday where the Bulls will host the Pacers again with a 1-0 lead in the series.
As cool as March Madness can be, let's face it--April through June is when playoff basketball really begins. The NBA Eastern Conference standings are pretty much set in stone, and as far as the playoff seedings go, we already have first round matchups set and game times being released. Here is a preview of each Eastern Conference playoff matchup, and a prediction for what will happen.
This is a series that should be a cake-walk for the Chicago Bulls, but that doesn't mean the Pacers cannot make it interesting. Indiana has a ton of talent offensively with Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George, Mike Dunleavy, and Roy Hibbert, but they lack the defensive ability to really be able to hang with Chicago. Indiana did get a win against the Bulls this year--an overtime victory in a home game where Derrick Rose scored 40 plus points.
Still, the Bulls managed to win three out of four games against Indiana, who was the only team within the Bulls' division to actually beat them in 2010. I think this series should be a clean sweep, but the Pacers could steal one game at home.
Derrick Rose and the Bulls are one of the most complete teams in the league, leading the NBA in half-court defense and point differential on the season. Rose is the likely MVP of the NBA, and executives Gar Forman and John Paxson were able to put an excellent array of complimentary pieces around him. The Bulls could finish the year with the best record in the NBA, and really they are the better team here.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau will have his team focused and ready to play, and while the Pacers could provide some intrigue, I just don't think they have enough to put up with the Bulls.
PREDICTION: Bulls in four, maybe five
I think this is a lot more intriguing a series than meets the eye. I'm not saying I expect an upset here, but I do expect the Sixers to put up a solid fight and maybe take this to six games. Philadelphia is a very underrated team, and probably rightfully so. They have a new head coach in Doug Collins who really took that team to new heights this year, and amid so many different trade discussions and other factors, this team was able to make it to the playoffs.
The Sixers have a really balanced scoring attack, led by Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala. This is not a team that has playoff experience, so they are going to need someone like Brand or Iguodala to really step up for them. In the end, I think Iguodala will step up as the "go to" guy in this playoff series for Philadelphia. I think this series compares favorably to the Bulls/Celtics series of a couple of years ago, where Chicago had some intriguing pieces to win some games they shouldn't have, but just not enough.
The Miami Heat have been one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA this year. They finally beat the Celtics for the first time last Sunday--the first time they have beaten either the Bulls or Celtics all year. The bottom line for me is, this team doesn't have quality depth or point guard play, and thus they are not a major threat to me as the playoffs develop, though I do believe they have the firepower and the star power to beat Philadelphia in the first round here.
PREDICTION: Miami in six
This is a very intriguing matchup, and will probably be one of the more popular to watch among casual NBA fans. This series has a ton of intrigue because of all the star power on both sides, and the sheer contrast of the style of play.
The Celtics are a half-court team that likes to dominate the opposition with a slow pace and their league leading defense. The Knicks are a lock-and-load unit that likes to push the ball up and down the floor, and they don't play defense whatsoever.
The Knicks do not rebound, they do not play defense. That is a recipe for disaster for New York. They have the firepower from three-point range to be able to hang around in games, but they are not any match for the Boston Celtics. New York has no depth on the front line, and I really don't think Carmelo Anthony and Amare' Stoudemire mesh well together, especially not this soon after the trade.
PREDICTION: Boston in five
This will be a fun series to watch, and not surprisingly possibly the most competitive of the four that we will have the opportunity to watch in this conference. The Hawks won the season series 3-1, but the Magic seem like the clear favorites.
I don't think Atlanta has anyone that can compete with Howard down low, and they don't have the ability to consistently come back and win games. They ranked in the bottom five of the NBA in scoring and rebounding, that that is a problem when you play the high-scoring Magic who are a rebounding machine, especially with Howard in the lineup.
Orlando plays good defense, and they are one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA.
Still, I love this matchup, and something about the Atlanta Hawks intrigues me. This Magic team had better be on top of its game, or they could fall in the first round.
PREDICTION: Magic in six