Bulls move past conference call with Bucks


Alexander Aghayere

Halftime from the Sideline

By Copy Chief

In a matchup that would have made for an exciting Eastern Conference Finals pairing, the Chicago Bulls are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and the Bulls’ chances of winning have gotten better thanks to the Boston Celtics’ first-round Game 4 loss (the finale of a predictable sweep).

The game heated up in the first quarter when Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk and Cavaliers’ Kevin Love got tangled up in a rebounding effort and Olynyk effectively dislocated Love’s shoulder.

Later in the game, the Cavs’ Kendrick Perkins trucked Celtics’ Jae Crowder on a screen, and well after that, Cavs’ J.R. Smith elbowed Crowder in the face in what should have been a rebounding effort but was actually just a dirty play.

Love was ruled out of the playoffs because of his injury and Smith received a two-game suspension, and the Bulls have to capitalize on those factors.

Considering the team’s April 30 dominance display against the Milwaukee Bucks—who were essentially deer stuck in headlights, when the Bulls ran them out of the first round of the playoffs—the Bulls are ready to take on superstars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Bulls won Game 6 against the Bucks by 54 points, almost a new NBA record for margin of victory record in the playoffs.

In all honesty, the Bulls should have swept the Bucks, but that was not the case. Still, the team’s play during that game showed their resilience. All of the starters scored at least 10 points, and bench leaders Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks scored 9 and 8 points, respectively. Center Joakim Noah stepped up and did what fans expected of him from the start, racking up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

With the Bulls players spreading the points and minutes pretty evenly on the stat sheet, it seems their playoff revitalization came at the right time.

The Bulls will have the first two games against the Cavs to make adjustments before Smith makes his way back on the court. They will have to find an answer to his shooting in forwards Mike Dunleavy Jr., Nikola Mirotić and Tony Snell.

LeBron and Kyrie will be unstoppable, but the Bulls defense can slow them down, as Rose can keep up with Kyrie, but the opposite is untrue. And as usual in the team’s matchup against LeBron, shooting guard/small forward Jimmy Butler will be latched onto the superstar. Noah and forward/center Pau Gasol will also have to slow down monster rebounder Timofey Mozgov, the 7-foot-1 center who has given Bulls big men trouble in the post numerous times in the past.

Tensions will surely rise between the two aggressive teams, but nothing less should be expected in the playoffs.

If the Bulls’ back-to-back losses were the extent of their playoff slump, then the team is bound to have a deep run that should get them into the championship series, but it will require outpacing the Cavs in what will be another long series.