|Written by Michael|
Bet on the NBAThe Bulls were never supposed to win so many games or make it this far into the playoffs.
They were coming off a couple of mediocre 41-41 seasons before the 2010-2011 season, and no NBA expert expected them to cruise to the league's best record. But with the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the NBA's youngest MVP, and the coach of the year, expectations for the team have steadily risen.
And now it's come to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. The Chicago Bulls had to walk through fire to get here, but an extremely tight defense and growing confidence in their offense have seen them through two tough playoff series. First, they took out the Indiana Pacers in five games in a series that was much more difficult than anyone expected it to be.
Last night, they defeated the Atlanta Hawks in Game Six to eliminate them from the playoffs. And their 93-73 blowout of the Hawks showed why Derrick Rose is the MVP and Tom Thibodeau is the Coach of the Year. The Bulls neutralized Atlanta's two best scorers, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, who were instrumental in the Game One upset, but which were never really seen from again in the series.
Chicago's offense had struggled during many of the games of the playoffs so far. They just are not that efficient with scoring. But in Games Five and Six, they have started to turn even this weakness around, blowing out the Hawks in the fourth quarter of Game Five, and leading the entire way through Game Six. The Bulls had an astounding 31 assists on 41 field goals last night.
As well as the Bulls are playing right now, they go into the next series as underdogs against the Heat. After all, everyone “expected” the Heat to make it to the NBA Finals this year, if not win their first of “not six, not seven” championships. And no one thought that this Bulls team would have the incredible run that it has had so far.
But looking at the Heat, it took their Big Three to step up to defeat an aging, injured Boston Celtics team. There were at least two games that, if the C's had had a healthy Rajon Rondo, the Heat would have lost. And that makes it a Game Seven win for the Heat, if at all. The Heat will have their work cut out for them with the faster, more athletic, deeper Bulls team.
In any case, the NBA Playoffs are so much more exciting when we can all look at the Chicago Bulls and say, “Not since the Michael Jordan era...” It seems fitting that the Bulls will have to get through potentially the most-hated team in the league to get to the NBA Finals. Does anyone remember the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons team that MJ and crew had to defeat before earning their first title?
I think the Eastern Conference Finals will be one of the most exciting in recent memory in the NBA. The Bulls have home court advantage, a deep bench, the MVP, and a suffocating defense. The Heat have the Biggest Three in the league right now. It should make for a really fun series, no matter who wins. But I'm not counting the Bulls out of this one at all, and I think they have the better chance here.