For a team that is the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, has the reigning MVP and Coach of the Year and has a league-best 50-16 record, the Chicago Bulls are facing a lot of scrutiny heading into the NBA Playoffs. Despite the negative tones of analysts throughout the league and the quotes from teams who hoped to meet up with the Bulls in the first round, Chicago is confident heading into a matchup against the No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers.
76ers guard Evan Turner made waves earlier in the week when asked what he thought of a matchup with the Bulls, to which he responded “we’re dodging the tougher team”. The question I have for Turner is, why give the No. 1 seed any bulletin board material? Rip Hamilton responded to Turner’s remarks, via Nick Fridell:
“I love it,” Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said of his comments. “You’ve just got to give them what they ask for. It’s going to be a challenge for us and it’s going to be a challenge for them. And we just feel as though if we stick to our game plan and stick to how we want to play, good things can happen for us.”
The Bulls finished the season on a high note Thursday, dismantling the Cleveland Cavaliers without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng or Kyle Korver. John Lucas III led all scorers with 25 points, and has been one of the driving forces behind the Bulls success without the reigning MVP. Rose missed his 26th game of the season after sitting out only one in the previous year.
Role players like Lucas III, C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, and the rest of the “bench mob” have stepped up all season to get the Bulls to where they are today. This team attribute is a stark contrast from a year ago, which relied heavily on the electric offensive performances from Rose. The 2011-12 squad has learned to adapt without their star, a trait that could lead to a more balanced attack as the playoffs approach.
More from ESPN Chicago:
“We’re more spread out,” Boozer said. “He’s obviously our closer and our MVP, but we’re so deep, four or five other guys can get 20 points any given night. Guys on the bench can get 20 on any given night. We’ve been able to jell with him, surround him with talent, but when the game is on the line, you know where’s it’s going and he comes through time in and time out. He’s not 100 percent, but he’s going to play with everything he has. It’s a lot better than what other guys got. Trust me, we’ll take that.”
Although the team has adjusted without Rose in the lineup, there is still no substitute for his offensive prowess. Rose’s health is a question mark heading into the playoffs, but reports from the previous victory over the Pacers indicated that the All-Star guard was moving much better on the court and distributing the ball like the team will need him to do in the upcoming games.
Another thing the Bulls have going for them is a chip on their shoulder. Its strange to think that despite the team’s long list of accomplishments, they still continually take a back seat to the Miami Heat. Rarely do you see a No. 1 seed that feels the need to fight for their reputation like an underdog day in and day out.
Chicago took two out of three against Philadelphia in the regular season. The Bulls tip off at 12 p.m. Saturday to kick off the 2012 NBA Playoffs.