Yes, you read the headline correctly and no it’s not an error. the Chicago Bulls are the black horses for a spot in the NBA Finals. Most fans think that the Miami Heat already have an appearance to the Finals locked down, but those fans are wrong. While Miami may waltz through their first round match-up with the Milwaukee Bucks, you can be assured that the second round will not be so easy for them. If they make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, you can be sure that those seven games will not be easy either. But this isn’t about the Heat, it’s about the Bulls so here are a few reasons why they shouldn’t be over looked in the playoffs.
The most important things when looking at a seven game series are as follows: defense, match-ups and attitude. Defense is clearly explainable, Chicago has the third best defense in the league allowing only 92.8 points per game and are eighth in the league in rebounds per game with 43.2. These two things make them nightmares for opponents. Especially considering that they may be facing their division rivals; the Indiana Pacers who have the second best defense in the league and they are first in rebounds per game. Things will get chippy between these teams for sure and the team with the better defensive outing will move on to the next round.
The next key to winning is match-ups. Now by match-ups, I mean how well teams have performed against one another during the regular season. Chicago has lost three of four against the Pacers but have won all four times against the New York Knicks and have won two of three against the Heat with the fourth game coming tomorrow night. So if the Bulls come in contact with the Knicks, it will be a series that Chicago should dominate in seeing as they can shut down New York’s lifeline for victories (three-point shooting) and have seemed to figure out how to defeat the Knicks time after time.
Last is attitude; watching the games I find one phrase to describe Chicago’s attitudes in games and that is that they play to their competition. They win games they aren’t favored to win and they lose the ones they should easily win. Sure, injuries, fatigue, poor shooting and other variables are involved in whether a team wins or looses but when it comes to Chicago it seems that they play lackadaisical in the games that they should have no problem winning.
My favorite reason why the Bulls can reach the NBA Finals, though, is the fact that they can beat the Heat. The Heat can run through opponents unless they are playing on their terms. Miami runs fast and generates lots of offense with less and less defense. The ball passes through LeBron James’s hands every possession and they do a lot of their damage outside because of their lack of interior scoring. These all play into the Bulls’ favor. Chicago is a team that can run on the fast break but they make better offensive choices when the ball is slowed down and passes around until an opportunity presents itself. Slowing the ball down eliminates Miami’s chances of running and gunning the ball. The catch is simple; slowing the ball down eats the clock, which makes the need for Miami to run and gun more imperative as the game goes on which means that possessions will be rushed and wasted. But that’s not even the best part, the best part lies on the inside.
Interior play has always been Miami’s downfall and that’s why they went and signed Chris Anderson to the team. But it doesn’t compare to Chicago’s back court of Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson who can bang bodies down low. Boozer and James have butted heads before and I expect to see it again if the opportunity arises.
So let’s recap: Chicago will have a challenge against Indiana but can smoothly sail past the Knicks and can beat the Heat in seven games as well. These are the teams that pose problems for the Bulls and the Bulls are capable of beating every one of them. That’s why they can reach the NBA Finals.