The playoffs are underway and home teams have been dominant thus far, but one home team in particular has really impressed over their first two games. The Chicago Bulls have been waiting for a postseason in which they are at full strength for four years. Now, they finally have it, and they appear to be clicking at the right time. Here’s why, they, not the Cavs or Hawks, are the team to beat in the East.
Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler’s ability to score
In the past the Bulls have lacked a legitimate second scoring threat. If you shut down Rose, or if Rose was not in the lineup, Chicago didn’t have a good option to score the basketball. Now they have not just one, but two. Gasol in the post and Butler’s shooting and slashing make the Bulls almost un-guardable at full strength. No longer can LeBron take the Bulls out of their sets on his own as he can’t guard three positions at once.
The Bulls have always been a very good rebounding team. Whether it was Carlos Boozer or Omer Asik with Joakim Noah the Bulls were a force on the glass, but now with Gasol in the mix as well as Gibson coming off the bench, the Bulls have a decisive rebounding edge on every team in the East. In their first two playoff games the Bulls hold a 116-89 rebounding edge over a Bucks team that is just fractionally worse on the glass than Cleveland and actually better than Atlanta.
3 point shot
Chicago has never relied on the three pointer as much as they do this season. The reason for this is simply though, they have never made as many as they are making this season. The Bulls have five players who shoot at least 38% from beyond the arc, and this does not include Nikola Mirotic who has been filling it up the last couple months of the year. The worst shooter on the team is Derrick Rose, who has proven many times throughout his career, no matter how poorly he has been shooting, he can become lethal in a hurry, as he did in Game 1.
Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks, and Tony Snell are ALL not starters on this Bulls team. Depth is obviously not nearly as important in the postseason as it is in the regular season, but Chicago’s diversity off the bench can and will play a big role. They’ve got defensive specialists, three point guys, instant offence, and even a guy in Mirotic who can do all of that… and rebound.
Derrick Rose, Derrick Rose, Derrick Rose
It all comes down to this one man. When Rose is on the court, the Bulls are very difficult to beat. When he’s making shots and attacking the rim, it’s almost impossible to beat them. Rose has shown enough in the first two games to prove that he’s healthy enough to be a major factor. The difference now is that he’s not expected to be Mr. Everything to this team. The biggest impact he has on the Bulls though has nothing to do with his contributions on the court. It’s the sense of belief he instills in his teammates and the city of Chicago. With #1 on the floor, the Bulls (and their fans…including me) truly believe they are the best team in the NBA. Three consecutive postseasons without him has taken a toll on everyone, but now that he’s back, it’s go time, and the Bulls know it.